tomek kawiak, 1943
about the artist
Born in Lublin, Poland, in 1949, he studied at the University of Arts in Warsaw. In 1970 he decided to leave Warsaw for Paris, where he used to live from a day to another by selling drawings to the tourists on the streets of Paris. Since the beginning of his career he has evolved tremendously, to his current status of an international renown artist.
He is based in Grasse, in the region of Provence, where he lives together with his wife Clodine and their three children.
Coming from the former communist Poland, Tomek has been using in his work the jeans as a symbol of freedom and capitalism, as he confesses in an interview about the first time he discovered the jeans, back in the 60s, in his native Poland. For the 60´s generation, growing up behind the iron curtain, the jeans were a representation of their dream of freedom. For this reason, making a bronze version of this otherwise cheap and durable material transforms the jeans into an authentic art object.
The symbolic value is not the only reason he decided to use this kind of textile as his prime material. The artist sees the jeans as a symbol of the current epoch, seen in a wider history of fashion and costumes. He is convinced that in a couple of hundreds of years, our predecessors will have the same feeling about the jeans, as a widely spread uniform, when seeing representation of current generations, as we had when discovering, for example, in the 1970s, the Terracotta Army of the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang. This fact served as inspiration for his exhibition and action from 1999 which brought him the recognition as an major French artist.
The exhibition “The Long March of the Jeans” was organized by the University Museum and Art Gallery in Hong Kong and comprised sixty prototypes of ceramic jeans as well as ten bronzes by the artist. Based on Tomek’s models, 369 statues of Marching Jeans, ranging from 30cm to a metre and made by Chinese artisans in Fushan, Guangdong province, were buried in a 25 square-meter pit in Shenzhen region, in an undisclosed location, according to the rules of Feng Shui. It was his artistic way of connecting East and West, arts and fashions. His work symbolizes the synthesis of the two cultural traditions into one harmonious whole. Tomek’s project was a gift to the people of China in recognition of their traditions and culture in the arts.