Born in 1966. Between 1990 -1997 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź and he graduated from the Department of Visual Education within the Studio of Painting run by Krystyn Zieliński. After graduation he started work as a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, where he continues to work. Nowicki expresses himself mainly through painting however he has also created a few films, which correspond with the topics of his paintings.
The Turing point in Zbigniew Nowicki’s artistic career occured between 1999 and 2003 when the artist gave up transferring his own emotions and experiences onto canvas and instead started to observe and comment upon the surrounding reality. Inspiration for his series of paintings entitled Mandala of Gods which emerged during that period was Polish everyday reality, which was already at that time oversaturated with new, exclusive goods, consumer products and their advertisements. Nowicki started to reconstruct and in a characteristic way – transform his artworks into the surrounding reality. In his paintings there appear interiors designed according to western models – apartments, elegant bathrooms, places for recreation and sport and in them – heroes – mafiosos? – strong, young and rich. The inspiration for his paintings were advertisements, newspapers, TV news and mass culture. The paintings are characterised by concise drawing and a synthetic, sketchy form or representation as it is typical for Nowicki to connect various painting styles in one work. On an abstract, expressive background he puts precise, although simplified drawing. His paintings stand out with their richness in texture and a play with various conventions of painting. In an apparent affirmation of presented reality we can feel a subsoil of criticism.
An important aspect of Nowicki’s art is his interest in the philosophy of the East. The series Mandala of Gods is also one of the examples of Subliminal Art which he has created since the end of the 90s. His inspiration was advertising leaflets which after the free market became legal in Poland, ruthlessly started to cover the doormats in front of our apartments. The artist came then to the conclusion that art could become a “product” which would be as available as the products advertised. Allegedly one of the tricks used by commercial companies is the use of subliminal advertising – we receive the content unconsciously – for example shots advertising the product are built into a film, and the time in which they are emitted is too short to notice that we are looking at an advertised product. One may come up with an analogy that the Subliminal Art by Nowicki is also aimed at our sub-consciousness, so therefore we cannot receive consciously its entire content.
Since 2004 Nowicki includes into his painting a Stencel and paints on foil. In the same year Nowicki painted his Physical Culture using a mixed technique on foil. The paintings’ composition consists of the intermingling drawings of bodybuilders (in Polish: kulturysta) working out in various ways. The painting seems to be an ironic commentary to societies’ stance that the word “culture” long ago lost its association with intellectual values.
It’s worth mentioning also a series which Nowicki has developed since 1999 entitled Persons. These are portraits of famous people who represent various professions. The artist painted for example: Anthony Hopkins, Miles Davies, Pope Benedict XVI, Benazir Bhutto and the Dalai Lama. These are small paintings in which the artist synthetically sketches the image of a figure, using only a few brush strokes or patches of colour. Often the figures are frozen in movement as if they were caught in a photo frame. Some look at the viewer with an analytical eye, others are more focused on themselves.
In Nowicki’s art one may distinguish also the trend of engaged art – the artist is a strong supporter of the liberation of Tibet. Referring to the situation of the Tibetans Nowicki made a series of paintings – pastiches of well known artworks which show violence. On a painting entitled Real painted in the convention which is characteristic for him – abstract background, expressive in its texture on which the artist placed a linear drawing in a cartoon type, we easily recognise the reference to Goya’s The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid. The series of Executions is a paraphrase of the series of paintings by Andrzej Wróblewski. In this case the executed victims are Tibetan monks.
In 2007 he created a series of paintings inspired by cinema hits and science fiction films. The composition is closed in a tondo or an ellipse, just like in the painting Foster parents, in which on a bright green background, among flowers and raising in the air muscular cherubs we can recognise schematically, naively drawn figures of Neo and Trinity – the heroes of the film Matrix.
In 2008 Nowicki created a series The Gravitation of Existence. He still undertakes current topics such as the politics of China, the lives of emigrants and violence, however these paintings are far from political agitations. These are rather surreal visions, oversaturated with a variety of references and meanings. The artist enriches the painterly measures – for example uses spray paint. He still plays with painterly conventions – causes optic and perspective illusions – for example in the painting Couch. He shows on his canvas a few simultaneous scenes which give the impression of a collage. There appear quotations from art history – paintings by Picasso and Mantegna. Nowicki’s paintings are stimuli collected from various sources – media, street, advertisements, meetings with his friends, all processed by his imagination. The result of these contrasts are paintings in which reality and paranoia become dream visions or even nightmares processes by our brains.
Nowicki also creates films, which he treats as a medium to complement his painting. He does not care about the technique and he does not hide the amateur workmanship. The films give the impression of quickly shot scenes, without any preparation. They are a kind of video-sketches using the convention of a joke or irony. Through the films the author would like to talk in a light hearted way about important issues. In the film Mane Tekel Fares he commented upon Poland joining the EU. In the Exorcist he referred to the practice of chasing away demons from the soul of the possessed. In a dark frame, blurred figures built a mysterious, thrilling atmosphere. But the rough style of the film and a quickly arranged film set suggest, that we are not dealing with a horror movie, but with black humour. In the movie Double, the artist used the convention of a semi-documentary style and in a masterly way disorientates the viewer. After watching the movie we are not certain whether the doubles from porn movies are authentic figures and if the film is the result of an artistic “investigation” by Nowicki. We are not certain whether the artist created the entire situation, the play between media reality and the one that we know from our own experience.
Nowicki therefore like a seismograph collects stimuli which come to him from the surroundings through all channels. Sometimes he stops a scene as if using a camera shutter, sometimes he “condenses” the collected impressions by creating paranoiac and not enigmatic visions of the world. For him art is a message which shows the viewer concrete content and brings attention to contemporary problems. Nowicki believes in the rule esse=percipi – as a means to watch, receive, accept. Nowicki’s paintings show that painting despite the development of new media, is still able to express contemporary content in a suggestive and touching way.
Apart from his activity in visual arts, Zbyszek Nowicki also plays in a band which he created with his son. He also values painting by Luc Tuymans.