Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz

Obituary Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz Born Lwow Poland 21 February 1918 Died Adelaide 2 October 1999

Wlad liked to tell a story against himself. Knowing the stormy relationship he/ continued to have with his adopted home, Adelaide, might explain his deli/ght in the telling. He came to Adelaide on a roundabout route which took him from a Displaced Persons' camp in Germany to Australia. Perth might have been his new home but the medical resources required to deal with an illness which laid him low after his arrival, were located at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. In better health, Wlad presented his credentials to the Commonwealth Employment Service ( CES ). They were impressive; trained at the Cracow Academy in painting and under scholarship at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and training in drama and stage design at the Lwow Opera Theatre. At the end of World War II, in which he had fought as a member of the Polish resistance and been wounded and imprisoned by both Nazis and Soviets, he met Gabriele Munter the former partner of Wassily Kandinsky and saw a collection of Kandinsky's abstract expressionist landscapes from the Blaue Reiter period which inspired him.

Impressed by such credentials the CES found Wlad a painting job, at the Adelaide Railway Station, working alongside a fellow artist, Alexander Sadlo, a Czech. Wlad called this his 'blue period'. Plenty of blue columns and blue ceilings. The painting stories don't stop there. Another describes a chat between Professor John Bishop and the artist who was then employed to do some painting work at the Elder Conservatorium. In those pre-Adelaide Festival days, Wlad reminded Bishop of the ability of Strasbourg to get an arts festival up. It's worth noting that Wlad was there at the first one, the 1960 Adelaide Festival, with a one person show in his own gallery, "Art Studio" in Twin Street. But Wlad Dutkiewicz didn't need a festival to launch his career or reputation. He had by the early 1950s surged to the forefront of contemporary art in Adelaide.
Apart from his contribution to local, modern theatre, his energetic canvases, semi-abstract figurative and landscape images had attracted critical attention not only in Adelaide where he had a significant influence on contemporaries including Jacqueline Hick, Douglas Roberts, Mervyn Smith, Ruth Tuck and Francis Roy Thompson, but interstate where at the Macquarie and other galleries he exhibited regularly alongside artists of the calibre and reputation of Arthur Boyd, John Brack, John Perceval and Frank Hodgkinson. Looking back now on those post-war, 'atomic era' days when the Continental emigré pulse pounded the local pseudo-cubists into submission, it's salutary to note how Wlad took to his heart and never abandoned, a special sense of place and engagement. The titles of his works are the clues: Newsboys, Aftermath ( Voyager Disaster Series), Juggler in the Mall, Chernobyl, Refugees, Milk Bar, Gully Wind, Children Playing; scraps of feeling and observation torn from a sense of caring about both global and near at hand issues and experiences. He was destined to fall of course. It wasn't possible to remain in orbit. Other generations of artists and the casual neglect of time saw to it that Wlad and his contemporaries faded off the screen as post-dated artists who'd done their bit to move the cause of art along. By today's taste a number of his canvases have a strange murkiness which sits uneasily with an Antipodean delight in clear light and limitless gaze. But there's no denying in the best of his works a singular and protean energy which meets and sets a standard for any artist who has the desire to make things which worry the viewer like a dog a bone.

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