Wlodzimierz Cugan - Dear Astrid II - detail

Włodzimierz Cygan, Dear Astrid II (detail), 2013, Handwoven wool, sisal, optical fiber, 98 X 16 in., Courtesy of the artist.

Through May 10th, the Hunterdon Art Museum will be celebrating the works of many of the finest tapestry artists working at the loom today.

Tapestries might conjure up images of medieval castles, unicorns and other mythical beasts, but “Contemporary International Tapestry” weaves a fascinating picture of how the art form has evovled in the past few decades. This exhibition — which fills two floors of the Museum — highlights the work of 40 artists who are elevating tapestry to a whole new level of technical and aesthetic excellence. 

And, over the course of the next few months, this blog will highlight many of the artists whose work you can discover and explore at HAM. 

Wlodzimierz Cygan

Wlodzimierz Cygan

Polish artist Włodzimierz Cygan has always been on the cutting edge of tapestry and textile architecture and continues to reinvent his medium and his messages. He’s renowned throughout Europe for his technical innovations and unique personal style. His talent has been rewarded with the Bronze Medal at the sixth International Fiber Art Biennial from Lausanne to Beijing and Zhengzhou, China. His tapestry, Orbitrek 29, earned the Grand Prix at the 12th International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland.

“I was born, and have always lived, in Łódź, a city with very strong textile traditions, evidence of which is noticeable everywhere,” Cygan said, as quoted on the Web of Europe website.

Cygan displayed a variety of creative talents at a young age, and first attended a music school. “After several years of trying to turn me into a virtuoso, my teachers and my parents felt sorry for me and let me transfer to a regular school much closer to home,” he notes on his website.  He attended secondary school before moving on to the State School of Fine Arts  (now an academy) in Łódź.

“While at secondary school (an art school), I sought the best language in which to express myself artistically. I came across textiles, which really moved me,” he notes.

“In the early 1970s, weaving art was an area where we felt anything was possible,” Cygan notes. “Nearly all artists of the day dabbled in it, with varying degrees of success.” This was around the time when Polish artists were elevating this field of creative activity from craft to art, he notes.

He worked at his craft for a number of years, and in 1987 celebrated his first one-man show opened at Galeria 86 in Łódź. From there, his career blossomed. He was honored at the  International Triennale of Tapestry in Łódź and later at the International Wool Secretariat at the Second International Textile Competition in Kyoto, Japan.

The recognition helped him establish contacts with a number of terrific artists working in tapestry, and led to him starting the textile magazine Text i Textil.

For more than a decade, Cygan has been teaching at Gdańsk Academy and Architecture of Textiles’ Institute at Łódź Technical University. “Working at these two schools involves specific challenges,” Cygan said. “I try to take advantage of these circumstances, and make sure I don’t bury my talents.”