Sculptor Igor Mitoraj, has died at the aged 70, known for his fractured anatomies and immense bandaged heads, exemplified by Testa Addormentata (Head Lulled to Sleep, 1983, now on display at Canary Wharf, London), – the work was in the style of classicism which the artist combined with technical ability and a post-modern bent. The artist’s use of fragmentation in his sculpture became metaphors for the passing of antiquity, and mortality of the human condition.
The artist decribed his work, “I feel that a piece of arm or a leg speak far more strongly than a whole body.”
Mitoraj was born in the German town of Oederan to a Polish mother and French father. In his youth he had having survived the bombardment of Dresden, and was was brought up in southern Poland. After studying art in Bielsko-Biała, at the age of 19 he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Mitoraj began his artistic career as a painter, the artist trained for three years under the avant-garde artist and theatre director Tadeusz Kantor. In 1967 took part in a group show at the Krzysztofory Gallery in Kraków.
His teacher would encourage Mitoraj to broaden his experience through travel, and in 1968 he left Poland for Paris. The artist enrolled at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. To begin with Mitoraj continued to paint – but,he would later experience pre-Columbian carving on a trip to Mexico in the early 70s, after which he turned his practice to the plastic arts. He would go on to have a solo exhibition at La Hune gallery in Paris in 1976. Finally following a trip to Carrara, Italy, the artist began to use marble.
Mitoraj went on to form a creative collaboration with the independent curator James Putnam, who in 1994 arranged the display of his bronze Tsuki-No-Hikari (Moonlight) in the British Museum show titled ‘Time Machine’. Two years earlier, after the artist had exhibited at both the Economist Plaza in London and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield. The artist more recent British project, the Eros Bendato Screpolato (Eros Blindfolded and Cracked), at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, in 2009, was a four-metre bronze head that the Mitoraj saw as a comment on the suffering he wtnessed all around him.
The artist divided his time between Italy and Poland in the latter years of his life receiving many awards, from the Vittorio De Sica prize of 2001 to an honorary degree from the Kraków Academy in 2007 and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, – conferred on the artist only two years ago.
Igor Mitoraj, sculptor, born 26 March 1944; died 6 October 2014
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