May 28, 1952
I was born in Przasnysz in a corner house at pl. 1-go Maja – later known for the fact that Stanisław Ostoja-Kotkowski was also born in the same house before the war, who after emigrating to Australia became one of the most famous artists of this continent. the Ostoja-Kotkowski medal will be awarded to the most active creators of culture from Przasnysz or its vicinity. I also received such a medal in 2020. My mother was Alina Niksińska (née Kiembrowska) – she died at the age of 81 in 2004, and my father was Antoni Niksiński, who died in 1994 when he was 71 years old. I also had a brother, Andrzej, who was 9 years older than me and is no longer alive – he died in 2012.
1958 - 1966
I attended Primary School No. 1 in Przasnysz, and then, in the years 1967 – 1970, to high school 36. After graduating from high school, I tried three times to get into the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, but due to the lack of additional points (for good working-class or peasant origin) and the lack of any connections or family relationships, I did not get accepted to this university. For a year I even went as a free student to the Academy of Fine Arts in Janusz Przybylski’s studio, but the result was that my file was rejected – supposedly because I am mannered and “uneducable”.
Running away from conscription into the army in 1970, I worked for a year as a decorator in the Military Unit in Przasnysz.
After the entrance exam, I got admitted to the University of Gdańsk, Faculty of Pedagogy with Elementary Art Teaching. At that time, many “survivors” studied at this university, who did not get into various art schools in Poland. After a year, almost all of us tried to get into the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk.
In September 1972
I applied to the Sculpture Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk at the urging of a friend who had already tried to get there four times. I thought that if I took the sculpture exam, I would definitely not be considered “mannered” because I had never sculpted before. To my surprise and joy, this brought a positive effect, but in September I received a letter from the PWSSP rectorate that there were not enough places at the sculpture department and I was offered a year’s study at the Graphics Department, and after a year they would transfer me back to the sculpture department. However, it was my dream to get into the Faculty of Graphic Arts, so I gladly took advantage of this offer and did not move to sculpture after that. I completed my first year in the painting studio of prof. Borowski and Lettering (Lorenczuk) and Graphic Design (Krechowicz) studios. Especially studies with prof. Lorenczuk from the practice and theory of typography influenced my love for letters and it continues to this day. The following year, I found myself in the painting studio of the outstanding painter and rector of the PWSSP, Władysław Jackiewicz. The professor was rarely in the studio, but he had two assistants – the interesting painter Teresa Miszkin and another assistant whose name I do not remember and do not want to remember. I had constant conflicts with him because he did not tolerate my inclination towards drawing and printmaking at that time. I didn’t paint much then and I had only two paintings for the exhibition at the end of the year, but a dozen or so drawings and prints. This assistant did not want to pass my year at that time, but when it turned out that my graphics in the next two years (1974 and 1975) won the main prizes in the Krakow Student Graphic Review, at the final exhibition he showed my graphic and drawing works in such an amount that paradoxically, I had the most works at this exhibition. However, the deepening conflict with this assistant made me apply for a transfer to the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Then it turned out that his letter from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk had reached Warsaw, saying that I was an irresponsible, quarrelsome and anti-social student.
The holiday of 1974
The first journey with my then-girlfriend (my love) Jolanta Mirecka was to Karpacz in the Karkonosze Mountains, where we explored all the possible mountain trails. Later, we traveled by train to the GDR: on our first trip abroad, which took us to Dresden. While on the train, we met a super-nice young German couple who immediately invited us to stay in their home. Our main goal in Dresden was t visit the Old Masters Gallery, but to our despair, it turned out to be closed. However, when the guard saw our long faces and heard my good German, he let us in – it was just us in the giant building. So, we could contemplate the masterpieces in peace. We were most impressed by Raphael’s Sistine Madonna – bewildered, we stood before it for over half an hour. We returned home warmed by the friendliness we had experienced from various people in Dresden and East Berlin. At the Academy of Fine Arts where, at the lithography studio, I was working on a cycle based on the short stories by Cortazar, The Sistine Madonna got incorporated in one print of the series; I saw a link between the picture and Cortazar’s short story entitled Condemned Door.
Before our wedding, Jola Mirecka and I embarked on our second journey abroad. Having crossed Ukraine by train, after two days, we reached Varna in Bulgaria – and got terribly disappointed with the crowds on the beaches of Golden Sands, so we moved further South, looking for a place to meet our expectations. On the way, we visited the amazing Nessebar and, after a few days, reached a campsite called “The Dolphin” close to Ahtopol, located on a thirty-meter embankment over a spectacular sandy beach. We put up our little tent close to the embankment’s edge and happily went to sleep. At night, we suddenly felt we are flying. We rolled across almost the whole campsite, and when we opened the tent, it turned out that the only reason why we had not fallen down the embankment was because the wind was blowing towards the land. It was raining horizontally, and the waves were hitting the embankment so hard that the breeze traveled thirty meters up – apparently, it was the storm of the century. “The Dolphin” got cut off from the land and became an island. After two days, the military picked us up in amphibious vehicles and took us to an accommodation in Ahtopol, where on the next day, we woke up to cloudless skies and fantastic weather. So, we returned to “The Dolphin” to stay there for almost two months of heavenly vacations. The beach and the campsite were practically empty; it was only towards the end of our stay that we met a young Polish couple (Ela and Piotrek Latała, with their son), who told us about the village of Varvara, just two kilometers away from “The Dolphin.” They were surprised our price for the campsite was two times what they were paying for accommodation in a private house in the village. Then they showed us Varvara, and the following year saw the beginning of our love for the place where we later spent more than twenty holidays.
The Holiday of 1976
Invited by my friend Zdravko Papiĉ, we spent our honeymoon in his place in Ljubljana (Yugoslavia). Zdravko was a fellow student at the Academy of Fine Arts and the person who encouraged me to use acrylic paints, which were rather rare in Poland at that time. As a result, I started painting colorful pictures again. Earlier, I had used oils, and as my technique consisted in applying multiple semi-transparent glaze layers, it took ages before the previous layer dried. Acrylic paints dried instantly, but many of the Academy’s staff were extremely critical as they believed those paints would quickly fade and flake. Yet I still have many of those acrylic pictures, some of them forty years old and still going strong. After the visit to Ljubljana, we hitch-hiked across Yugoslavia, through Split and Dubrovnik as far as Kossowska Mitrovica, to reach the Bulgarian border and then Varvara, where we stayed in an old house with a beautiful garden. The owner was Baba Dafina – the only Christian in the area. Again, we stayed there for the rest of that holiday. While in Varvara, I made what was probably my biggest artistic discovery – in a forest close to a Christian temple, I found some reeds which looked like thin bamboo sticks. I used them to make various installations on the rocks – as they made a characteristic counterpoint for the said rocks. Based on the compositions, I took multiple photos and painted pictures. In 1988, I showed them all at my exhibition at the Institute of Modern Art in Nuremberg, and almost all were sold. Varvara has been inspiring my art until today, not just with these sticks but mostly with its special charm and atmosphere.
15 May 1980
That is the date of birth of our son, Marcin Niksiński. Unfortunately, his childhood coincided with the last decade of communism in Poland, with its ration coupons and empty shop counters. Back then, none of us believed communism would ever end.
13 December 1981
Introduction of martial law in Poland – When I returned from my art scholarship in Vienna at the beginning of October 1981, no one would have guessed that the “Solidarity Festival” would end so quickly and tragically. In Vienna, I made a lot of artistic contacts, but as martial law blocked all phone connections in Poland, and we didn’t even hear about the Internet, all these contacts got broken – some of them, I have not managed to recreate until today. All the artists I knew were boycotting Polish Television and offers of exhibitions (particularly abroad). At that time, I began receiving phone calls from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Television, and the Radio. I was astonished that someone at the Ministries found my phone number, as they had never telephoned me before – and did not telephone me later. They were calling with numerous offers of exhibitions at Polish Institutes around the world and offered to manage my career through galleries and museums. The Polish Television wanted to interview me and make a film about me – I only accepted the last proposal as I thought that martial law would probably be over before the film was finished. They sent an extremely nice journalist, Elżbieta Dryl-Glińska, and we made the film in my apartment and studio. Many years passed before I met Ms. Dryl-Glińska again, at a vernissage – I didn’t even recognize her, but she reminded me she had made a film about me – a fact I had completely forgotten. It turned out the communist censors had blocked the film’s release, and later, when Poland was free again, Polish Television lost interest. Maybe it can still be found in some dusty archives? Also, I have serious doubts as to whether turning down the offers of exhibitions was the right decision because many artists who accepted them became very successful. Today, no one remembers the decisions they made, and no one blames them.
Cooperation with THEATERmëRZ in Graz (also in 1991-1994, with Willi Bernhart, I was involved in staging multiple theatrical plays: “Fractats”). Collaboration with Bernhart was among my life’s most important artistic events. Willi telephoned me to invite me to cooperate with his theatre as a production designer and the theatre’s graphic artist. When I told him I had never collaborated with a theater or designed a theatrical production before – and that I considered theater the least interesting of the arts – he replied he had seen my exhibitions and catalogs, plus he was fed up with trained production designers. He wanted me to design his productions the way I paint my pictures. He suggested I design a poster for a new play and a new logo for his theater – and visit him in Graz. He loved my design for the logo and the poster, and asked me to prepare stage design for In the Old Manor House, a play by Witkacy – for which he engaged many Polish artists, including Ewa Błaszczyk and Mikołaj Grabowski, costume designer Irena Biegańska, and composer Jerzy Satanowski. Jokingly, he said the play would be all-Polish if I designed the stage. I was extremely hesitant about the proposition, but in a situation where Willi did not require any mock-ups or sketches – he simply wanted me to take part in rehearsals and build things directly on the stage – the work started to progress relatively smoothly. Even more so when it turned out that, as far as art is concerned, Willi and I understand each other perfectly. The play and my minimalist stage design were such a success that he (Willi) offered me further cooperation. Together, we made six or seven other plays. I describe it in greater detail in my catalog entitled “Transcendence of the Picture.”
27 May 2009
Our first granddaughter, Zuzanna, daughter of Marcin and his wife, Magda Niksińska, was born, one day before my birthday. Interestingly, she is the first girl in the Niksiński family. From her earliest childhood, she has demonstrated phenomenal artistic talent, and her works frequently inspired my paintings. So far, we have even painted one picture together – “Child’s Flowers at the Sea.”
11 December 2012
Our grandson Jędrzej Niksiński was born, an outstanding little individual. I am very curious to see how he will turn out in the future.
I participated in a discussion about Poland’s two most famous theaters: the Theater of Tadeusz Kantor and the Theater of Grotowski. I was invited to join by Bogdan Wrzochalski, the then deputy director of the Institute of Polish Culture in Vienna, as an expert on Tadeusz Kantor’s Theater, which, since the premiere of The Dead Class, has shaped my definition of modern theater based on tradition and individual originality, and my entire later philosophy of art. It was also an important factor in my multiannual cooperation with TheaterMëRZ of Willi Bernhart, who, in his theater, to a considerable extent used the methods of Kantor’s Cricot. The discussion occurred during a festival of plays by Sławomir Mrożek, which the Polish Institute organized in many theaters in Vienna. The Institute also published a book entitled „Es war ein Leben, kein Schauspiel” (which translates as: “It was Life, not a Play”) in which all the speakers, including myself, could present their thoughts and experiences related to theater.
I participated in the Forum of New Autonomies of the Arts organized in Elbląg’s Galeria EL, by Sławomir Marzec – author of the idea of Autonomy of Art. Marzec asked me to present one of my pictures and write a text for the book, published under the above title, to mark the occasion.