Tomasz Vetulani

Polish artist

Tomasz Jerzy Vetulani (born 21 December 1965) is a Polish painter, drawer and sculptor active in Utrecht and Kraków.


  • Art is just like the languages that people use: each one opens up different possibilities, different layers of sensitivity and expression.
  • I am absolutely for the possibility of a happy relationship between adult people, regardless of their gender, and I think that they cannot be denied the right to live worthily. I am also in favor of equal treatment of married couples and couples living in concubinage. I did not marry myself. In Poland, the wedding is considered to be a sanctity, while in fact it has primarily legal consequences: it guarantees the right to inheritance, to adoption, to the visit in a hospital in the most dramatic moments. The husband who is an alcohol addict and abuses his wife can accompany her to the hospital in an ambulance, while the cohabitant cannot accompany a loved and loving partner. In the Netherlands, spouses and cohabitants have similar rights.
  • I am fascinated by the fear of terrorism in Poland, when people die on the roads every day – and every year there are thousands of people who lose their lives in a very stupid way.
  • I often use old photographs in paintings and collages. During some historical periods photographs have taken on the function of a signature or trademark. Throughout my childhood my 'forefathers and foremothers looked out from a photographic heaven' with a very real and often threatening presence. In fact, often in the works where I incorporate old photographs the works become personal 'maps of conscience'.
    • At the time of writing exhibition catalogue, the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, 1998.
  • I have a need to create works that are not just shocking, or say: striking, smashing – but also such works that can become companions of my various life events, and become companions of other people in their situations. These are the works that I create from the deep need to communicate with my sense and my ideal of beauty.
  • I have been working with silicone for years. While I was still studying, I painted on unusual materials, for example on a soft felt. I like material that easily surrenders – you can tame them and “go out” to the third dimension, and at the same time sanctify something that is considered ordinary. Once, I painted on sponges over twenty centimeters long, which create a great illusion of sandstone.
  • I like working on sponge because it's a simple, light material and always ready to use. The colour and texture meet my aesthetic requirements and it has a lolof volume and physically, is very present in the space. The ink or paint is immediately absorbed into the foam surface, making any corrections almost impossible. It is a material which lends itself to quick, fast application and is particularly good for spontaneous sketching with paint squeezed directly from the tube. The fact that these works will not last (sponge is not a very durable material) does not deter me; it suits the character of the work very well and to an extent reflects my ideas about art.
    • At the time of writing exhibition catalogue, the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, 1998.
  • I love what I've learned from my parents, and what I continue here [in the Netherlands] – wandering, Sunday trips out of the town, mindfulness with which you can look at plants and animals. I am not interested in that professionally and I have no ambition to classify flora and fauna, but with enthusiasm I profess my amateur love for nature. Light, air, clouds, landscapes only seem harsh. A lot of beauty can be found in this rawness.
  • I really like painting on unusual base, such as zinc plates, which are already exposed to rain. These are old plates, consumed by time and weather. I paint very subtle paintings on such a ground. On the other hand, paintings on a sponge, which may seem harsh in terms of subject matter – are, contrary to appearances, very soft and pleasant. For instance, it is enjoyable to move and hang them.
  • I was recognizable in Kraków because of my family. I felt it as a burden. I tried to cut myself off from the past and build something myself. To become independent.
  • In 1986 I began studying painting at the Art Academy in Kraków. A more sophisticated ability to translate my feelings, fascinations, fears and desires within an already present personal sense of aesthetics onto a canvas, or any other material using more or less traditional media is something that I began perfecting in art school. The interaction with skilled and understanding teachers as well as observing the work of fellow students made me aware of the diverse approaches taken to create a painting. I found more ways of treading on my own path.
  • In Poland, many doctors would not undertake euthanasia due to religious beliefs. The Dutch are more pragmatic, and death is not a great taboo for them, but part of the natural order of things.
  • In the Low Countries, people are met with indifference, which is the consequence of the assumption that everyone is responsible for their fate. Everyone keeps their own views, but there is no attempt to impose them on others.
  • The illusionary nature of a two dimensional work of art can sometimes frustrate my creative process. I overcome this by stepping out of the flat illusion into the three dimensional and create sculptures of wood and bronze.
  • The label “objects” is the most appropriate for works which elude clear-cut definitions. Foam sponge, builder's silicone, packaging tape etc. are the main materials which I use to create these works. Sometimes, because of the properties of some of the materials which they are made of they have a limited span of existence. But often the roughness and imperfections become make them artistically strong.
  • Years ago I heard such a nice saying that the soul travels at the speed of a horseback run. Nowadays, of course, nobody travels by horse, but it seems to me that I am always somewhere in the middle of my travels between Poland and the Netherlands. As soon as I reach one destination, my soul still has not left the other place for good, and then back again – everything is mixed up. Of course, I'm formed in Kraków. For me, Kraków is the source of all inspiration. But my home, my family is in Utrecht.

On Tomasz Vetulani's art

  • He deliberately rejects the classic beauty of the form for the sake of fragility, transience or simply greater sensitivity to what is present. His work has a mockery and ironic character. He looks critically and with great apprehension at Poland, he does it from the perspective of an emigrant, from culturally and socially different Netherlands, which became a new homeland for him.
  • Tomasz Vetulani's work balances between two fascinating axes, producing an image of an artist juggling various means of expression. From intriguing and expressive objects, made by him from, say, hot white glue or black silicon, with strong social and political connotations - to subtle images-objects, evoking fleeting states, where the sensitive eye of the artist touches the sublimation of certain senses.
  • Vetulani is a rebellious artist: when we admire beautiful faces, forms, wide-framed Dutch landscapes, he says "and now for something you haven’t expected." The spectator is awakened from a reverie and confronted with an object of mysterious ugliness, like silicone heads of the pope.
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