Joseph Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski - Biographical Summary of Works

Biographical Summary of Works

Ostoga flourished between 1940 and 1994.


Ostoja studied drawing under Olgierd Vetesco in Przasnysz (Poland).


Ostoja completed studies at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts in Germany after winning a scholarship, and migrated to Australia.

Arriving in Melbourne, he enrolled at the Victorian School of Fine Arts National Gallery School under A. Summer and William Dargie and studied while he was working as a manual labourer.


Ostoja introduced the new abstract expression of Europe both to lecturers and students at the Victorian School of Art, Melbourne.

Settling in Stirling, in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, he had his first one-man Exhibition at the Royal Society of Arts in Adelaide.

1956 - 1957

Ostoja collaborated with Ian Davidson in the production of the short film Five South Australian Artists, and became involved in stage and theatre set design.

He co-produced several experimental films again with Ian Davidson, including The Quest of Time in 1957

Ostoja's work in abstract expression began to receive accolades. He won the Cornell Prize for the canvas "Form in Landscape", and designed the set for the play 'Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello


The artist designed the set for the South Australian production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. He began to work with the Elder Conservatorium of University of Adelaide, designing sets for Gaetano Donizetti's Elixir of Love, employing startlingly new modified light settings and modulations.


Ostoja won the Cornell Prize Exhibition of the Contemporary Arts Society of South Australia. He designed the set for The Egg and a new, light/colour abstract presentation for two performances of the South Australian Ballet Theatre. His innovative new techniques were then used by the Elder Conservatorium in their Opera Workshops.


This year he designed sets for a new opera group which would eventually grow into the South Australian Opera Company. Among other theatrical events, he designed and executed the scenery for Moon on a Rainbow Shawl by Errol John, and The Teahouse of the August Moon by John Patrick, (an Adelaide University Theatre Guild Production). He received artistic satisfaction but little financial reward for these efforts. In this year also, he staged a visual production on the theme of Orpheus, using dance, music and voice with several projectors.

This was the first attempt at quadraphonic sound in Australia, and also the first demonstration of "Chromasonics" - the science of translating sound into visual images. Ostoja then designed innovative "abstracted" scenery for a production of The Marriage of Figaro and Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw.


Ostoja designed the sets for the controversial South Australian production of Patrick White's Ham Funeral - also Alan Seymour's Swamp Creatures, both performed by the Adelaide University Theatre Guild. He designed and constructed six stained glass windows for the Refectory at Adelaide University, South Australia. In this period Ostoja designed special lights and gauzes for difficult effects required in an ambitious production of the opera Don Carlos by the Opera Workshop, for the Elder Conservatorium.


Ostoja designed and built sets for the production of"J.S", by Archibald MacLeish, for the second Adelaide Festival of Arts. He exhibited vitreous enamel works in Melbourne's Argus Gallery. Max Harris, in The Bulletin of 20 October 1962, praised Ostoja's sets for My Cousin from Fiji in Union Theatre, Adelaide, and his technique of rear screen projections as later adopted throughout Australia.


Ostoja continued to develop Multi-Image projections, demonstrating for the first time in Australia the concept later to be known as 'audio-visuals!'. Ostoja gave Sir Herbert Reed, the art critic, a personal viewing of one of his visual presentations. At Christmas, in the Elder Conservatorium, Ostoja gave what was probably the world's first "visual concert", using special projectors and incorporating music, colours and shapes.


Ostoja co-designed a dance and stage production in Adelaide. For the Adelaide Festival of Arts of that year, he designed the largest light mosaic ever staged up to that time, upon the facade of an 11 storey building. Ostoja was invited to New Zealand, and exhibited the first electronically generated images in Australia in Melbourne, at the Argus Gallery. His extremely innovative design for the 60-foot (18 m) bass relif mural on the new B.P. building in Melbourne was the subject of a film which won the "Blue Ribbon" Award in the American Film Festival in New York.


Ostoja designed and made the first light kinetic mural in Australia, and continued to evolve theatrical works using multi-screen and Multi-projector techniques. The Production of Jean Genet's The Balcony was very controversial. with Elizabeth Dalman, Ostoja produced new dance forms for Melbourne Television. He introduced Op Art to Australia, both at South Yarra Gallery in Melbourne, and Gallery A in Sydney.


With John Dallwitz, Ostoja was invited to present more "Sound and Image" experimental theatre. he incorporated Australian poetry into the sound, music, and visual images. The architect Robin Boyd commissioned Ostoja to design two large Op murals for the Australian Pavilion entrance at the Expo 67. Ostoja was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which enabled him to have extensive world travel, comparing art and technology in many countries. He began to work with language, contemporary poetry and prose, and computers.


In Berne, Switzerland, Ostoja received the "Excellence F.I.A.P." Award for innovative photography.


At the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Ostoja staged the first combined 'Sound and Image" production in the world using a laser beam. This included the first science fiction play (by Ray Bradbury) performed in Australia. Ostoja's theatre methods were increasingly attracting the attention of critics to how plays were staged. "Chromasonics", developed and introduced by Ostoja, was now being used extensively in the entertainment industry.


Ostoja staged Krzysztof Penderecki's St. Luke Passion, a controversial, contemporary religious work. The South Australian The Advertiser wrote an extensive critique of Ostoja's work. Robin Boyd commissioned Ostoja to build a 'chromasonic" exhibit for the Expo '70 in Osaka.


Ostoja presented an Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime theme in his "Sound and Image" theatre, working with leading contemporary figures in poetry, music and dance. This was the first production of its kind in Australia, and appeared after the Festival in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Perth. Ostoja's "Space Scape" mural, sixty feet long by ten feet high, won the Australia wide competition for a mural for Adelaide Airport. His 120 feet (37 m) high 'light and sound' structure for the Adelaide Festival was the first of its kind in the world.


Ostoja awarded a Creative Arts Fellowship at the Australian National University Australian National University, Canberra. His 18 month stay resulted in the design and building of a "Chromasonics unit-laser", a 100 feet (30 m) Chromasonic tower, and a world premiere of a "Synchronos" concert.


With Don Burrows and Don Bank Ostoja presented "Synchronos 72", where one could "hear the colours and see the sounds". Ostoja added "Cymatics" developed during the Fellowship to his workshop repertoire. He was invited to exhibit his photography in the National Gallery, Melbourne.


Ostoja received a Fellowship from the Australian American Education Association to study art and technology in the U.S.A. He studied laser art and technology, using a newly developed material in his optical collages.


Using several lasers, Ostoja designed sets and a special curtain for the complex work The Excursions of Mr. Brouček by Janáček, the first opera produced at the new Adelaide Festival Theatre complex.


The artist 's "Laser - Chromasonics" (1972) and "Laser Chromasonic Tower Mark III" exhibited for the Festival of Creative Art and Sciences, Canberra. Ostoja commissioned to design a vitreous enamel mural for the Earth Science building, University of Melbourne.


Ostoja exhibited works in vitreous enamel on steel, optical collages, and for the first time in Australia, collages incorporating Kirlian photography. The Premier, Don Dunstan, opened this exhibition at Lidum's Gallery, Adelaide. Ostoja's "Theremin 74", using electronics and stainless steel, purchased by the Tasmanian Art Gallery. Ostoja commissioned to produce a large bass relief mural for the new Nauru House, in Melbourne.


Ostoja displayed exhibits of vitreous enamels, optical collages, and kinetics with six lasers at the Australian Galleries Exhibition in Melbourne. He was commissioned to undertake a feasibility study for a solar mural by Melbourne University University of Melbourne.


The artist's computer poem "Tidal Element" (the first computer poem composed in Australia) featured in a special issue of "Australian Literary Studies" (Adelaide University). Ostoja created a new Laser Chromasonic Tower, which produced kinetic laser images and incandescent lights, for the Royal Adelaide International Expo 78. Ostoja's experiments with an argon laser gave rise to a new organic image in his work laser images, including "Astroid" and "Harmonics".


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation produced a half-hour documentary on Ostoja's work, the program screening on 13 April 1980.

The Governor-General and his wife visited the artist's studio in Stirling. Christopher Hunt, Artistic Director of the 1980 Adelaide Festival of Arts, invited Ostoja to exhibit his laser kinetics in conjunction with a holographic exhibit from the New York Museum.

The show, "Futuresight", in the Melville Hall, Adelaide, was opened by Sir Mark Oliphant.

The magazine Scientific Australian published an article on this exhibition in the No.4, Volume 4 Edition.


Ostoja prepared for an exhibition in Sydney, and became interested artistically in Australian jade. Commissioned by Dr Nina Christensen of Melbourne University to construct a jade window. At this Adelaide Festival of Arts he presented a different kind of laser concert. "Art in Australia", Vol. 19, No. 3 published an extensive article on Ostoja's works, covering a twenty year period.


The Hon. Barry Jones opened Ostoja's two major exhibitions at the Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney - one on optical collages, and a laser kinetics, music and sound exhibition. It is suggested that Ostoja donate his large, personal collection of photographs and a full documentation of his career, to Melbourne University's Australian Collection. The collection was subsequently deposited in the Baillieu Library.


Ostoja used a vapour laser, then built by Quentron Optics in Adelaide. He presented a laser kinetics concert for the Ballarat Festival.


Using computer generated images, Ostoja staged a laser concert at Wayville Showgrounds, Adelaide, to celebrate the finale of the inaugural Adelaide Grand Prix. Australia Post produced a stamp issue designed by Ostoja (using a laser), to launch the first Australian "electronic mail" system.


Ostoja invited to stage a laser concert for the South Australian Jubilee Celebrations. He constructed the "Solaris", a continually changing, solar kinetic mural, at the CSIRO. Division of Applied Physics, Lindfield, N.S.W, and was invited to exhibit it at Expo '88 in Brisbane.


Ostoja redesigned the shape of "Solaris" for the Brisbane Expo. For the Director of the new Scitech Discovery Centre, Perth, Ostoja designed, produced, and exhibited a work which reveals the effects of theremin and light.

1988 to 1989

Australian Bicentenary celebrations included a project sponsored by the Polish community to honour the name of Australia's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. In collaboration with sculptor John Dowie, Ostoja constructed a geometrical, stainless steel monument at the entrance to the town of Cooma, New South Wales. Reading about chaos theory and Professor Mandelbrot's "Beauty of Fractals", Ostoja began to work in this area. An article published in The Australian, October 1989, revealed some of Ostoja's considerable output of work in the field of computer graphics in this new field.


Ostoja was invited by the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, Poland, Ostoja staged "SYNKRONOS" concert - workshop using 13 blue green and red lasers and incandescent lamps to translate works of traditional and contemporary composers into kinetic laser images and shapes.

1994 Ostoja was involved in part of the 1994 Adelaide Festivals "Technilusions". He displayed some of his Fractals and Mandelbrots and was displayed with "current" and "state of the art" technologies Animation, Virtual Reality and CD-ROM. He died at home on 2 April 1994, in the cottage "Arbroath" on the Booth estate at Stirling South Australia, where he had lived under the patronage of the Booth family for over 40 years. His studio was on the same property.

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