A city without people is lifeless, in other words it is up to the city’s residents to create its image and atmosphere. That is why in Warsaw (as well as in other places) it’s the meetings with other people and relationships that I’m especially devoted to. They are so important in our big family. A few years ago I met an amazing person of Jacek Andrzejewski who, after 30 years of living in Germany, moved to Warsaw 12 years ago. Warsaw without him wouldn’t be the same place. For some people he is an agitator, for others he is an established artist and a person who made his contribution in building a culture of tolerance. I met him for the first time while shooting a documentary for the French television. It was 2008 and we had a meeting in a club called Storehouse Full of Bottles. Jacek was with his muse Natalia Andrzejewska, an artist who greeted me in Polish but with Ukrainian accent.
I met this amazing couple (I called them “inseparable”) while working on the documentary about porn industry and religion in Warsaw. At that time, Jacek launched an exhibition “The third hour extra” which featured leaflets he had been collecting for years. They could have been found almost everywhere in Warsaw and they were pointing out the advantages of brothels. For his exhibition Jacek made a collage out of the leaflets. He glued them together to create symbols of hammer and sickle and buildings resembling a gothic cathedral, which was one of his most representative works of art.
When I asked Jacek why he decided to organise an exhibition causing so many controversies, he answered:
“I’m a stonemason, it’s my profession and passion but apart from that I collect the leaflets about brothels that you can find behind the cars’ wipers. In my view, in the period following the Berlin Wall demolition, the issue of brothels was very widespread in Warsaw. The profession of stonemason requires peak fitness; unfortunately a few months ago I broke my leg which made me feel completely helpless. Then Natalia asked me to make a use of my leaflets, and this is how the idea about the exhibition was born, it was a result of a simple accident.”
“But why, in a country where religion is so important to the majority of people, would you show a building as a church. Isn’t that a provocation?”
“Everything is a provocation. I would like to emphasize that nowadays the Church is engaged in politics. Politicians do not hesitate to use the faith of millions of believers in order to do their business. Even if years ago the Church was a symbol of resistance and a shield attached to the nose of communism, today it’s only a business, just like brothels.
When it comes to the girls working in brothels at least they’re honest with themselves. They know what they’re doing and better or worse they do their jobs. The Church, on the other hand, covers its face and is unable to see that it’s being ruled by money and obviously, its profits shouldn’t depend on its material value. After the fall of communism, the Polish prostitutes showed up (usually girls from small rural communities). They started to do things that were forbidden by socialism and Christian morality.
Communism was such a wonderful period of time that there was no prostitution, crime and even racism.
The girls who were arriving to the capital in big waves, tried to get their chances to taste a better life in Warsaw and eventually they started to earn really good money”.
This is how I met Jacek Andrzejewski, in the atmosphere of small accusations and denunciations.
Three years later, in March 2011, I sat opposite to the “inseparable couple” again, wondering about the publicity after the exhibition “The third hour gratis”.
The reactions were so-so. Some people screamed it was outrageous but the majority liked the idea.
Some of my works were also displayed in this bar. I remember two girls sitting next to one of the mosaics. Only after an hour they realised that the mosaic consists of leaflets advertising the brothels. Later they were talking and laughing about them. A little bit less funny was the festival Rewizje when I became a persona non grata. The organisers refused to show my art. This is what I call hypocrisy and a syndrome of Marjanizm which is an expression describing somebody who’s a guard of morality and judges others only through the holly Mary, Mother of God. When it comes to international exhibitions my works of art were displayed and very well received in Milan. Italy is a very conservative country but it didn’t get in the way of art connoisseurs to appreciate my works”.
“Do you think then, that in Poland we’re unable to appreciate the real value of art?”
“I would rather say that since the end of communism, Poland has developed immensely in many different areas but the mentality of many people remained the same. Marjanizm is the biggest issue as it creates a type of censorship and brings pressure. Nowadays the Church and so called morality are still preventing the development of mentality.
Another issue concerns the artists who produce commercial art only to get some fame and money. I’m under the impression that art in Poland sells its ass to those who have most to offer. Some artists really produce art to do business, find fame and earn money. It’s contradictory to what I do. Artists are being pigeonholed by people. I remember e.g. the ceramic workshops managed by children from Praga. We were trying to glue some pieces of ceramic together when somebody asked me if this is “street art”. That only showed me to what extent everything is being labelled. People, who try to do something unusual and not only art in its general meaning, stand no chance. Even if art left something behind in Poles’ minds in the 70s and 80s, mainly through the posters, it all disappeared in business.
“Talking about art, what’s the relationship between the two of you?”
"I graduated from Sculpture Academy but everything started when I was studying graphics in Germany. One day I met a German guy who had just come back from Africa. He said that he had left a paradise for Germany. He was a sculptor and it was him who taught me the profession. Thanks to him I quickly learnt all the basics and I opened a studio; however, instead of getting some profits out of it I concentrated on art itself. Twelve years later I came back to Poland and from the beginning I was treated as a Western artist. Commercialism is not for me, I don’t like it. When I came back to Poland I was planning to create mosaics on the streets’ concrete. Money was the motivation but with time the whole thing turned into an art project. Today I have my own studio and Kamienikon which gives stones the opportunity to talk. There are different stones, like those lying on the ground e.g. one of my mosaics at the entrance to Ujazdowski Park, those in a garden or in a house, or stones in a form of a stained glass which lets the light through. This is the world that suits me. Working with stones is very hard, sometimes they’re heavy and you need to carry them around. We get our supplies from Wiśniewski brothers in Milanów and sometimes we need to move the stone far away from the place of its destination. Nevertheless, all of this is a part of my life and I try to survive because of my passion. It’s a struggle but also a big adventure. I cannot stay in one place. I always look for new ways that would let me to improve my art”.
“What are you working on at the moment and what are your plans for the future?”
“At the moment I’m focused on interior design especially light and stone as I make lamps out of stone and paint them.
I’m also working on developing stone, mosaic and other installations in gardens and open air.
When it comes to the future, I trust new generations that slowly move towards generalisation and objective understanding of their potential”.
Jacek, thanks to his way of looking at the world and his love to minerals which is like a therapy improving the world, is an enthusiast who is not afraid to enter the world of brothels’ leaflets and he tries to find a balance in between the sacred and the profane. Jacek is a unity, an artistic strength without any inhibitions and limitations.
Jacek Andrzejewski is an artist who’s always very engaged, he’s like an engine of the whole process, somebody who didn’t lose any of his former vigour. A long time ago he found his lost innocence and developed a desire for knowledge with no limitations. To all of this you can add a small dose of humour. When we finished our conversation, he summed up:
“I have no problem giving my ass away (as some people do) for a little bit of comfort but nobody wants it” (laughter).
N.A (Natalia, Jacek’s wife)
“I want it!!!” (laughter).
Translation: Anna Martinsen
More information about Jacek and Natalia on the website: