fot. Grzegorz Płaczek


The deep conviction held since the 19th century, and still common to date, that studies at an academy are a sine qua non condition in the career of every artist, has been especially deeply rooted in Poland. In face of the growing freedom of expression and achievements in the field of fine arts that have been arising for years, and the ever more numerous controversies which these activities give rise to, it is the diploma of completing this kind of institution of higher education that would be to label them as stricte artistic. The case of Mariusz Zdybał, whom lack of academic education did not disturb in becoming a well-known and successful painter, proves, that it does not have to be like that at all. His way to Parnassus is a hard, divided into many years, process of self-education enhanced by a natural talent, patience and nearly steel-like consistency in striving for his goals.

Mariusz Zdybał was born in 1955 in Warsaw. In this capital city, he spent his youth and completed his education, not artistic in the least. Satori came relatively late, because as late as 1981. Personal, existential in nature perturbations, made the 26-year-old then Zdybał completely overvalue his as yet life. The consequence of his reflections, and the decisions made on their premises, was his removal to the provincial– in the good sense of the word – Jelenia Góra. Finding himself there, he decided that he would make a living painting [sic!]. Aware of his talent and filled with the zest of a neophyte, he started off from studying and copying well-known paintings of famous creators, which he would then successfully sell. "The best of the best" became his teachers and masters– outstanding European artists creating since the Middle Ages down to contemporary times. It is impossible to name them all here, though the few, who particularly meaningfully influenced the shaping of Zdybał's later individual style, are worth mentioning. They are: Sandro Botticelli from Florence, with his linearism decorativeness and great grace in painting female silhouettes; Tiziano Vecelli from Venice commonly known as Titian, wielding a sophisticated modest colour range and a master of glaze; numerous representatives of the 17th century Dutch school – masters "big and small" – attributing great importance to general high quality of accomplishing their works, far-reaching realism and utterly unbelievable precision in reflecting even the tiniest details; and finally Salvador Dali, using, as nobody before him, unrestrained imagination to show common reality in innovative contexts. All the above features are easily found in Zdybał's later creations, when after years of studies and imitation, he decided to paint his own works. It is the art of the generations and centuries past, which helped him work-out his personal easily-recognizable convention of artistic expression; and this regards both the workshop /technique/ and principles of ordering the surface of the painting /style/.

Many years of hard labour paid off. In 1988, the first individual exhibition of Mariusz Zdybał's paintings was held in gallery "A" in Cracow. The same year, the freshly-baked artist confirmed high aspirations at the completely successful display of his works in Warsaw's gallery "Intraco II". The rest went smoothly. In 1955 Zdybał is admitted into the ranks of the members of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers. He displays in numerous domestic and foreign galleries, among many, in Gdańsk, Gdynia, Jelenia Góra, Düsseldorf, Doesburg. In 1998, a big retrospective exhibition takes place of his paintings at the gallery of Ulrich Gronert, a renown Berlin's art dealer and art patron and simultaneously the editor of the first luxury catalogue of the artist's works. He achieves a meaningful success in 1999 in Marseille by winning a gold medal in the international painting competition "MCA". A subsequent foreign trophy is the Grand Prix prize in the category of painting, received in Cannes in 2000. The years 2001 - 2008 is the period of certain artistic stagnation. At that time, Zdybał moves to Zielona Góra- he has been living and working there to date- concentrating mainly on individual orders. He also sells single works in a network of domestic and foreign galleries, however, he does not engage in bigger exhibitory enterprises. A successful return takes place in October 2009, when over 20 new canvas are exhibited in the Warsaw's gallery "TAB". The latest bigger presentation of Mariusz Zdybał's works took place in May 2011 during III Promotion Auction, organized under the auspices of the Warsaw branch of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers at the association's gallery "DAP".

To sum up this short biography of the painter, his own statement from years back is worth quoting. He then said that he started the real life the moment he became an artist. Ars est philosophia vitae – could be added after Cicero.


For many critics of contemporary painting, classical realism based on grounded workshop, is a certain anachronism. If it is additionally flavoured with perfectly reflected creations of the imagination, threads of fantasy or magic, a scream is immediately voiced, that it is a mediocre sort of art, fit at least for illustrating children's books or literature of the Tolkien style of creators of science fiction.

How shall we then explain the phenomenon of popularity of artists such as Zdzisław Beksiński, Jarosław Kukowski, Rafał Olbiński, Tomasz Sętowski, Wojcich Siudmak, Henryk Waniek or Jacek Yerka? Creators of works from the edge of dream and reality, filled with oneiric atmosphere, painters of fabulous worlds and creatures inhabiting them, existing somewhere beyond earthly time and space. Well, this league of "fantasy" gentlemen, it seems, correctly appeal to the tastes and possibilities of perception of a wide range of viewers, also those who in their everyday lives are not interested in art. Viewers tired of the multiplicity of contemporary directions, styles and trends- frequently incomprehensible even to professionals. Viewers who appreciate the mastery and virtues of "high workshop" and treating it as a rudiment of artistic activity. Viewers culturally tamed with linear perspective, open to clear visualization of incredible events originated in the museum of imagination.

Viewing his paintings is usually accompanied by subtle- difficult to define, tension. It is evoked by the configuration of naturalistically presented persons, objects and places characteristic for his creations, which are not present in the real world. This conscious, enchanting painting mastery of the fusion of elements of reality and fantasy, affects the senses and imagination of the viewer more intensely than the intellect. After all, it is not intellectually overloaded work. Zdybał does not tell us beautiful stories, does not comment the reality, does not involve himself in socially important issues. He simply paints, smoothly and pedantically using as spiritus movens his own imagination. It tells him that the most rewarding painting subject is the female. Dressed or naked, standing or walking, lying or sitting, usually alone, hung in surreal space, shown against the background of architectural adornment or in an architectural interior, located in a fabulous landscape. Zdybał regards his women with great attentiveness. Thus, he does not deform and does not overscale his heroines. However, he dresses them in marvelously rich outfits. Yet, he commits some transformations in the painting sphere. It is the shiny, metallic complexion of the figures, which is a kind of personal signature.

Despite constant reference to the world of fantasy and imagination, Zdybał's painting easily lends itself to sensual acquaintance. Fluent use of glazing enhances the theatrical effect, and thorough drawing and simplicity of composition make the artistic communication clear and understandable, even for the lesser trained viewer. Even more so, as there is no place for chances here, and reflection regards even the tiniest detail. For the purpose of achieving the desired artistic effect, Zdybał usually composes his canvas vertically. He does not shy from symmetry either. A predilection for this particular method of building the surface of the painting may be explained by his earlier fascination and deep studies of the past art, mainly from the Middle Ages, where these solutions were particularly popular. Past art has also got meaningful influence on strong diversification of the color range which the artist uses. With equal skill, he wields both a range restricted to one or a few closely-related colors, more often in cold ranges, and a wide range with strong colour contrasts. These contrasts meaningfully underline the graphic character of the works, highlighting, at the same time, the volume of the painted figures and objects.

Just like most artists of the fantasy field, Zdybał seems to be a better graphic artist than a painter. When showing motifs important for the artistic design, he uses hard plasticity closer to drawing than painting, which sharply contrasts with soft, colour and chiaroscuro manner of shaping the space and atmosphere, in which the motifs are functioning. This formal procedure adds dynamics to Zdybał's rather static compositions. The figures and objects shown, seem to levitate and "live" in its own way independent of the surroundings. And in this way, the aura of the presented world, already thick with mystery, thickens even further, which additionally alarms and makes the viewer even less certain of the creator's intent.

And the artist himself plays a prompter by feeding the answers with either the title or the subject, or with a paraphrase of a wider-known work. He is not, however, exceptionally intrusive in that- and that is the way to go, allowing for the viewer's freedom of associations and interpretation of a majority of his works.

Just as every outstanding artist, Zdybał is the strictest reviewer for himself. This is the source of, his constant mastering of the workshop fluency, unceasing search of a satisfying means of expression. This is also the source of his returns to previously realized subjects. In times when it is more frequent to name than to create, his work, sophisticated and distant from any avantgarde, appears a noble oasis of peace in which you may rest from the cacophony of mostly un-understandable -isms, -arts or concepts, which fill contemporary art. And Mariusz Zdybał indeed is a contemporary artist?

Krzysztof Sztuciński
art historian

Tłumaczenie: Bogusława Jakubowicz

Zdybał. All rights reserved. Projekt i realizacja: Artgen