JOZEF STANISLAW OSTOJA-KOTKOWSKI
Jozef Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922-1994)
Upon rubbing his eyes, a young Jozef experienced an epiphany of kaleidoscopic radiance beneath the shadow of his eyelids. The vivid images of dynamic colour and shape dazzled his retinas and excited his artistic imagination, sparking a life long fascination with optically kinetic images that have the ability to flex with the flux of time. Impelled to leave his native Poland towards the end of the Second World War, Ostoja-Kotkowski was sent to Germany and remained there until 1945. In the aftermath of the war he received a scholarship to the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf where he studied painting and drawing between 1946-1949, finding himself part of a vibrant exchange of new ideas and technologies between major European institutions. On completing his studies he emigrated to Australia, where on arrival he enrolled at the National Gallery School in Melbourne and studied for two years between 1950-1952 under the tutelage of Alan Sumner and William Dargie. After cutting sandwiches for the army in the early morning, Ostoja-Kotkowski produced expressionistic paintings while sharing with his peers the practical experience of the new techniques he encountered in Europe. Receiving only a trickle of income after his studies meant any prospects of holding an exhibition in Melbourne were beyond him, urging Ostoja-Kotkowski to work in the coal mines of central Australia to fund his artistic endeavours.
It was under the vast Australian sky that he encountered the terrific iridescent landscape of the desert, revealing to him the origin of light and its brilliance in the same perceptual effects he experienced as a young man. A radiance so intense it “forces you to think of the source of light… as the most impressive, most flexible and richest tool imaginable for an artist.” His quest to produce this brilliance led Ostoja-Kotkowski to experiment with light through photography and filmmaking, producing kinetic images and stage designs for theatre, opera and ballet productions in Adelaide between 1956-1959. He produced a unique series of Sound and Image performances from 1960, pioneering the use of technology in art through the synesthetic mixing of sound and light, synchronically presenting kinetic light projections that danced to the pitch, volume and rhythm of music. The multi-dimensional techniques employed by Ostoja-Kotkowski created a new form of art beyond conventional media, exhibiting the first electronically generated images in Australia along with his Chromasonic experiments at the Argus Gallery in Melbourne in 1964. In 1967 he received the Churchill Memorial Fellowship which allowed him to travel and investigate innovations in laser technology, from which he would go on to apply and demonstrate in the performances of Synchronos ’72 with Don Banks at the Australian National University as part of his creative fellowship.