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Josef Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski Collection

 JS Ostoja-Kotkowski 
 Stan Ostoja Kotkowski light show PRG 919 41 21 8 
 PRG 919 41 21 9 

Australian Memory of the World Register 2008

Joint nomination by the State Library of South Australia and University of Melbourne

Josef Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski Collection PRG 919 

Josef Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski was a prolific artist of enormous diversity. His work included painting, photography, film-making, theatre design, stained glass, kinetic and static sculpture, murals, vitreous enamels, op-collages, computer graphics, and laser art. He was best known for his ground-breaking work in chromasonics, laser kinetics and 'sound and image' productions.

Ostoja-Kotkowski was born in Golub, Poland 28 December 1922. Josef was known as Stan or Ostoja. He migrated to Melbourne in 1949, and settled in Stirling, South Australia in 1955. Ostoja-Kotkowski studied art under Olgierd Vetesko in Poland 1940-1945; at the Dusseldorf Kunst Akademie, Germany 1946-1949; and at the National Gallery School in Melbourne under A Sumner and Sir William Dargie  1950-1951.

Awards received included: 1967 'Excellence' AFIAP Berne Switzerland for innovative photography; 1969 Churchill Fellowship; 1971 Creative Arts Fellowship ANU Canberra; 1971 Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts London; 1973 Australian American Education Association Fellowship; 1991 Polish Order of Cultural Merit; and 1992 Order of Australia.

 In 1954-1955 Ostoja-Kotkowski worked in the Leigh Creek coalfields. This inland experience inspired his artistic direction as the light and colour made a deep impression on him:

'In the centre of Australia I was struck by the irridescence of the colour.... Not only did the colour seem to be vibrating with intensity but at the same time it gave the impression of being something solid.... The surroundings were drowned in an exciting light that had a life of its own.' (PRG 919, Personal papers of JS Ostoja-Kotkowski, Kinetics and electronics in art. Power Institute lecture March 1968, p1)

Capturing this intensity became the focus of his artistic creativity.

In 1967 Ostoja-Kotkowski travelled around the world on a Churchill Fellowship. At Stamford University, USA, he discovered lasers. With the help of the Weapons Research Laboratory, Salisbury SA, he developed an installation of a laser beam whose sweep synchronised with voices and/or electronic music to produce images on a screen. This was turned into his first 'Sound and Image' production at the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1968. It was possibly the first time a laser had been used in a theatre. Ostoja-Kotkowski found the use of a laser beam particularly exciting. 'The blue green is so brilliant that an aquamarine stone reflecting in the sunlight appears dull in comparison.' (A. Rawlins, JS Ostoja-Kotkowski: explorer in light, Art and Australia, Autumn 1982 Vol 19 No 3)

This was the start of his enthusiasm for kinetics and chromasonics. In 1971 at the Australian National University he designed a chromasonic tower, and with composer Don Banks, designed an audio-kinetic production Synchronos '71 which was the first concert in which the players' music was instantaneously translated into kinetic visual images. The musicians 'played' images onto a screen. Stan built laser chromasons for exhibition and put on laser kinetic productions at Ballarat 1984, for the SA Jubilee 1986, and in 1991 he was invited to Warsaw to stage Synkronos '91.

Ostoja-Kotkowski was an artist of tremendous innovation and talent. He was, at times, criticised for his technological approach to art but as he stated:

'I am not seeking to smear art with science...but I am trying to free the imagination from the impediments of means.' (PRG 919, Personal papers of JS Ostoja-Kotkowski, Kinetics and electronics in art. Power Institute lecture March 1968, p15)

The State Library Ostoja-Kotkowski collection is a comprehensive archives of a post war migrant artist who maintained his connections with Poland. Ostoja-Kotkowski was a prolific artist of enormous diversity and the archives document the breadth of his work and life. He was an innovative artist who made a significant impact on the art scene in Australia and influenced developments overseas in relation to chromasonics and kinetic art.

The collection consists of:

  • files relating to J.S. Ostoja-Kotkowski's life and art;
  • programs, pamphlets, invitations, articles and press clippings in English and Polish relating to the full extent of Ostoja-Kotkowski's career;
  • photographs, slides, and negatives relating to his theatre designs, sculptures, murals, BP star, art, film, laser shows, chromasonics, electronic images, computer graphics, stained glass and photography;
  • papers relating to his migration to Australia;
  • correspondence and photographs relating to his relationship with his family and friends in Poland and with the Polish community in Australia;
  • films, videos and audio tapes which document Ostoja-Kotkowski's work and various interviews with him about his projects;
  • original art works;
  • a theatre set model and models of sculptures;
  • computer disks.




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