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Archetypes of Sculpture. Drawing and Graphics Józef Kopczyński

5 March – 24 April 2022

Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko

Długa Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Sculpture

Curator: Małgorzata Kopczyńska

Collaboration: Jarosław Pajek


A sculptor’s hand is generally quite characteristic. Strong, slightly hardened, created to handle tools and operate them boldly, without fear of getting cut yourself or of cutting the material you work with.

A certain ruthlessness of gesture, a deliberate suddenness of decisions when getting to the bottom of the matter, which you want to achieve using the material – it is the arsenal sculptors use with panache not so typical of other domains of art.

Thus, it is even more interesting to the see the effect when, with astonishing subtlety, the same hand takes up a pencil and approaches a sheet of paper on which it leaves a record of a fleeting moment.

I ‘discovered’ my Father’s drawings and graphics in 2021[1]. They were waiting for the right moment in folders which he had packed years before, like a message in a bottle. Kopczyński used to draw a lot, but he seemed not to attach much value to this part of his activity, especially to his early works.

The drawings from the last part of his oeuvre in the 90s were several times shown in exhibitions as a complement to sculptures and plaques, however the earlier ones remained consistently hidden in inaccessible folders and boxes.

He was sculpting constantly, till his death. And, being lucky to have watched my father working, I never doubted that sculpture was his greatest passion.

What complements the image of the artist is this confrontation with his works on paper, where he returns to some motifs, revisits them after some years, where the lightness, humour and finesse intertwine with sarcasm, verging on bitterness.

In this exhibition, the series of drawings and prints such as Daphne, Cain, Charon, Potiphar, Icarus – archetypes of people from many cultures, implemented by Kopczyński into his everyday reality —  neighbor with very sketchy drawings, usually preludes for his later works, and sometimes recording the simplest moments: son at play sketched on a piece of paper – a quick note to remember his characteristic pose, mother and child on baking paper, daughter on crumpled sheet music, where the motif of a printed staff has an additional meaning, characterizing the model.

‘The long stay of motifs in Józef Kopczyński’s imagination may be observed on the example of the motif of Cain: the artist found this protagonist in his student studies of contrapposto male nudes. Cain underwent many metaphorphoses and with time, he iconographically merged with the figure of soldier, and in late 60s got presented in contrapposto and with military gear in a sculpture formed in Kopczyński’s typical style.’[2]

The works astonish with their thoroughly humanistic vitality. Their light stroke, synthesis, perceptible briskness and at the same time delicacy of gesture, can be seen now years after they were finally freed from folders and boxes.

The sculpture and drawing are intertwined in them very clearly, as if confirming the words of Juhani Pallasmaa:

‘Each movement, weight, shade, thickness and rapidness of a handwritten line carries a particular meaning. A handwritten line is spatial: it is situated in a defined perceptual or imagined space.’[3]


[1] I was inspired by my son – Jan Matusewicz, who started curatorial collaboration with the organizers of the Prof. Józef Kopczyński Student Biennial of Small Sculptural Form. The post-competition exhibition, curated by Dr Dawid Szafrański, realized in December 2021 by The Faculty of Sculpture of Poznan University of Arts, at Słodownia+1 in Stary Browar in Poznan, involved the presentation of several dozen selected prints, drawings and photographs juxtaposed with seven Kopczyński’s sculptures. The exhibition was titled The Process of Form. From Józef Kopczyński’s Archives. The present exhibition includes some graphic works and drawings from that exposition.

[2]Jan Matusewicz, Proces Formy. Z archiwum Józefa Kopczyńskiego, [in:] catalogue of the 6th Prof. Józef Kopczyński Student Biennial of Small Sculptural Forms, published by The Magdalena Abakanowicz University of Arts in Poznan, Poznan 2021, p. 9.

[3]Juhani Pallasmaa, Myśląca dłoń, Instytut Architektury, Kraków 2021, p. 110.

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