Elżbieta Tęgowska





Elżbieta Helena Tęgowska is a painter, curator, international cultural organiser, and friend to the serious artists around Europe. The style of her works has been described as Romantic Expressionism by Polish art critic Professor Adam Pawlak.

Born in Brodnica Ela's family moved to Szprotawa when she was 3 years old. She believes this period was her awakening as an artist. She remembers seeing reproductions by Nolde and  its impact on her even at such a young age. They lived in a quiet place surrounded by nature, close to the forest and the wonderful river Bóbr. Although the family moved on after a few years, these vivid childhood memories remain intact.

After her maturity exams Ela went to studies at the famous State High School of Fine Arts (now the Academy of Fine Arts) in Gdańsk, Northern Poland. During her six years here she studied painting under Professor W. Jackiewicz and ceramics under Professor H. Żuławska.

This intensive and long period of study that included History of Art, History of Aesthetics,Techniques of Graphics, Techniques of Painting (Encaustics, Frescos, Icons, Renaissance, Impressionist styles etc). She became a Master of Arts in 1969.

Between 1969 and 1975 she was active as a young artist having her first group exhibition in 1970 in 3 cities Puck, Gdansk and Gdynia. She took part in five more  group exhibitions up to 1975, including the renowned exhibition Creativity of Women Artists at the National Musuem. Her thirst for artistic knowledge saw her travel extensively during this period, to countries who's exotic artpalowa-1993 remains with her to this day - Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbadjan.

Like many female artists before, Ela took a semester from her work to bring up her two boys Selim and Osman, but remained part of the artistic community over the next ten years. She came back with new purpose in 1985 working for Pałac Młodzieży (Cultural Institute) preparing young people for their exams at the Academy of Arts in Gdańsk. She taught painting, drawing, composition, techniques and technology of painting until 1996.

This period also saw Elżbieta active in many other cross-over projects running at the same time. Between 1991-93 she worked at Club Kuźnia teaching art to youngsters living in difficult circumstances. In 1992 she accepted her first curators job which ran until 1996, at the na piętrze gallery, promoting working class and young artists. Among the many artists who exhibited there for their first shows were Marta Goebel, Julita Wójcik, Tomasz Skórka, Sylwia Białkowska, Małgorzata Piasecka and Magdalena Nowak. Ela also collaborated with cult galleries Żak, zbyszeks-dollPalowa and Punkt, organising over 40 exhibitions.

Her energy for work at this time saw her renew her exhibition work and in 1990 she was invited to exhibit at the 1st Tri-Annual of Art group exhibition, Confrontations at the State Gallery of Art in Sopot. Along with this she  managed 5 solo shows including the galleries GTPS, Palowa and the now famous Zbyszek's Doll exhibition at ZPAP (Union of Artists) Gallery.  Ela has been a member of the Union of Polish Artists (ZPAP) since 1970 and 15th November 2010 she celebrated 40 years as a member, with a special solo exhibition. She has been honoured by the President of the City of Gdańsk, who presented her with a Laureatship in recognition of her outstanding contribution to art. She was also nominated for the Splendor Gedanensis Award, the art world's Oscar.

Her boundless energy to promote the efforts of artists and organisers, who often do not get enough credit for their work, led her to start writing articles for various publications over the years including Litery, CGK and Topos. Among them was the definitive story of Lucjan Bokiniec, friend and organiser. The piece covered his leading role in the founding of the cult art centre Żak-Klub Studentow and the DKF (Dyskusyjny Klub Filmowy). Other featured artists include Małgorzta Chomicz, Bogna Klaman-Tarnowska (Litery), Larry Ugwu & Barbara Polkowska-Ugwu, Barbara Kruszewska, Krzysztof Polkowski (CGK) and a special interview with Hugon Lasecki for Topos monthly arts magazine. Her efforts to support other artists and organisers came to good effect in her work for the British Weeks Festival 1995, when she helped set up exhibitions for Stoke-on-Trent painter/poet Kelvin Bowers and painter Dooze Storey. She also organised an evening of Kelvin's poems and translated them for the audience at the renowned Gdansk Society of Friends of Art (GTPS). His hand written poem is now stored in the  Biblioteka Rękopisów (Collected Archive of Manuscripts) held by the GTPS.

In the mid-nineties she took over the role as organiser of Klub Angielski. The club was founded by Robert A. Burns in Klub Studentów Żak in 1993, for the purpose of helping Polish people who had no money or external support, to practice English in a cafe atmosphere. Ela saw the club through a difficult period at Żak until it found a new home in Gdańsk Old Town at Casablanca Cafe.

In the latter part of the nineties her work was starting to gain international recognition and in 1997 she was invited to exhibit in Denmark, at Gallery Sparkasse in Middelfart, and again in Denmark in 1998 at the Pattersson Gallery in Horsens. It was here she met Lilian Christiansen, with whom she remains good friends to this day. She also became one of the NoLeftEar International Artists Group originals and was responsible for designing their first logo. She maintained a home presence during this time with solo and group exhibitions at St.Johns Art Centre and Mała Gallery in Gdansk. However her first major international breakthrough came when she was invited to exhibit at the POSK Gallery in London in 1999, as part of the International Joseph Conrad Conference. Her work for this show was inspired by the writer Conrad, who's novels were read by Ela from the age of eleven. The writings of Conrad are a constant theme in her life. The exhibition To Follow The Dream (quotation taken from Joseph Conrad ), was a huge success, and gained critical acclaim in the harsh London art world.


2000 and 2001 Elżbieta was invited to 11 group exhibitions in and around Northern Poland as well as special shows, one celebrating the 90th anniversary of ZPAP with artists Danuta Joppek and ceramicist Krystyna Andrzejewska, titled Affirmation I and another in the Museum of History of the City of Gdansk, titled Affirmation II. 2001 also saw her work introduced to French art lovers in Le Havre, Normandie.

In parrallel to her own shows Ela worked tirelessly to promote other Polish artists to the international community. She founded Sans Frontieres Sans Limites to bring selected artists to France. Because of her growing reputation her choice of artists was taken on trust and invitations followed from around France. Ela took advantage of Gdańsk's twinning with Limoges in central France and co-ordinated exhibitions took place in Pavillon du Verdurier in Limoges and La Maison du Limousin in Paris in 2002. The exhibitions in Limoges attracted great interest all around the region, and was featured on TV and Radio as well as the press.

This period saw her spend a lot of time in France. Through Sans Frontieres Sans Limites she organised group exhibitions at La Mairie in Evaux Les Bains and gallery Le Bosphore at La Seyne-sur-Mer on the south coast near Toulon. Ela along with Barbara Polkowska-Ugwu also exhibited at the Art of Three Continents show at Chateau de Saint-Auvent. The gallery Le Bosphore had earlier invited Ela to make a solo exhibition titled Autour de la Poupee. Time was also set aside for 2 group exhibitions in Gdansk- African Mask organised by the One World Association and Gdansk Art at A-Gallery in Starogard Gdański.

In 2003 Elżbieta was invited to be resident artist at cult arts centre SSBONC (Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal Cafe) in Le Havre, Normandie. This opportunity gave her free reign and support for her Sans Frontieres Sans Limites project and to take time to create new works of her own. In a change of direction she started to work in chinese ink. These works were a stark departure from her paintings. The quill and ink impressions often reflected her exotic experiences. Organisers at SSBONC liked the work so much they invited her to design the graphics for the SSBONC Festival poster in 2004.

As mentioned Sans Frontieres Sans Limites took on a new life with the 4+3 Exhibition in Le Havre in 2003. This exhibition was over two sites, L'Espace le Casart Gallery (specially created for the project) and FJT Du Mont Joly Cultural Centre. The exhibitions created such a stir they were featured on French Television, as well as getting wide press coverage. This led to the strangest invitation of all. The group were asked to recreate the exhibition on an old barge in Dunkirk, as part of the Dieu Sauve Les Grues Festival, organised by the Association Nautilosh.  By strange coincidence the live music at this festival included Tczew band Von Zeit, with Roman Puchowski - another NoLeftEar original.

Sans Frontieres Sans Limites Artists : Magdalena Nowak, Ewa Hać, Barbara Polkowska-Ugwu, Danuta Joppek, Jowitta Wallner, Krzysztof Polkowski, Dorota Spłocharska.

Ela's travels and workload showed no signs of diminishing with age. In 2004 there was a solo exhibition in Nancy in the region of Lorraine (east France) at L'Artichaut Galerie and she was invited to be a juror for the Aye Aye International Film Festival in Nancy. She also made a happy return to Denmark where she was invited to teach adults art at  summer workshops, at Sonder Felding Hoejskole (high school), as well as having a solo exhibition of her work. She took this opportunity to invite Danish artist Lilian Christiansen to exhibit in Gdansk.

In Le Havre her residency led to a solo exhibition in SSBONC the same year and through her organisation, Sans Frontieres Sans Limites came one of the cities best projects of 2004, titled Rue Des Expos Polonaises. Ela and SSBONC convinced six cafes in the same street, Rue Casimir Delavigne, to put an exhibition of a different Gdansk artists each, to open 30 minutes apart and to run concurrently for one month. This exhibition had the great effect of uniting the cultural and the not so cultural cafes in a collective project, putting art out there.

2005 was a good and bad year for art in Le Havre. It saw the closure of SSBONC due to difficulties with the structure of the building, and it's sale to speculators. But two more major projects were achieved before associations history was put on hold. A festival in Place Danton in the summer and finally an exhibition of female artists from Gdańsk in  L'Hotel De Ville which include Ela, Danuta Joppek, Magdalena Nowak and Barbara Polkowska-Ugwu, under the title La Brise de Gdańsk.The year 2005 also saw solo exhibitions at Galleri 1678 in Lerup, the Mariacka Gallery in Gdańsk and a group exhibition in Dworek Artura Gallery titled Medium and Form with Lilian Christiansen and Krystyna Andrzejewska.


Ela exhibited her much anticipated chinese ink drawings for the first time in her adopted home city Gdansk for the first time in 2005, at the Union of Artists Gallery (ZPAP), before moving the works on to exhibit in Druskinnikai, Lithuania as part of an artistic cultural exchange. By the end of 2007 and into 2008 she was invited to revisit her Joseph Conrad theme, for a special exhibition at the Central Maritime Museum, in Gdansk Old Town. The title was simple To Follow The Dream II. It was to become her longest show ever, running over six months, until the museum was closed down for renovation work.

The year 2008 and 2009 were to set new challenges. Invited by Robert A. Burns, the founder of SSBONC, to exhibit artgdansk-stoke-exhibitionin Stoke-on-Trent, and to discuss a new Three City cultural exchange project, Ela decided to get involved in promoting art again. The three cities involved were Stoke-on-Trent, the home city of Kelvin Bowers, who she helped in Gdansk, Le Havre in France were she did so much good work, and Gdańsk. All cities were close to her heart.

First though was the solo exhibition Art@Gdansk, in the famous Burslem School of Art, home to the writer Arnold Bennet, the poet/painter Arthur Berry and cradle to the great ceramic designers that included Clarice Cliff. During her stay for this month long exhibition the seeds of the project were sewn. Along with Robert A. Burns and Dave Thomson she founded the ArtRoutes Association (now FillUpMeTin), to organise the exchanges. By Christmas a HQ in Gdansk was set up at the Yesterday Cultural Cafe in Piwna Street. The gallery on the first floor was founded by Ela and Robert A. Burns, and opened in May 2009 under the name ART @ GDANSK GALLERY as a tribute to its origins. The first exhibition titled DZIESIĘĆ (TEN) featured ten Polish artists. Elżbieta became its curator and organiser of exhibitions on a monthly basis, for talented Polish and International contemporary artists. The gallery has also shown its first Stoke-on-Trentela image artist since Kelvin Bowers, a graphist named Christopher Guest. The gallery has also shown artists from a much broader international field, including Lithuania, Italy, Germany and Denmark.

She has after all this time found a little recognition of her efforts from the President of the City of Gdańsk, who have supported her with funding in 2001 & 2006/7/8. Another solo exhibition celebrated 40 years artistic activity and as a member of the Union of Polish Artists exhibiting at the ZPAP Gallery as part of their 100 years celebrations, in November 2010. This exhibition was received with great acclaim, and was featured on TV as well as getting wide press coverage. January 2011 saw no rest for her either with the much anticipated multi-artist exhibition celebrating 100 years of the artists union. The significance of this cannot be understated. The exhibition took place at the newly redesigned PGS-State Art Gallery in Sopot, 100 artists for 100 years. Elzbieta was selected to be one of the representative artists, a great honour to have her work hung among so many wonderful artists old and new. A large book has been published to commemorate the event.

2012 saw her collberate on the biography of the late Lucjan Bokiniec. Old friend and fellow artist Lucjan had passed away in 2009. When Ela worked as a literary journalist for CGK, she recorded the only know audio of him discussing his life and work, which became an invaluable source of information for those collating the biography. The year also saw Ela re-invited to  Denmark for a special one day presentation of her work, and her method of working. Live in the famous glass cube Kuben, in Horsens. followed by a month long exhibition in the gallery Paafuglen, Hundslund run by Neils M Ottesen. On returning to Gdansk Ela was invited to be part of the artistic council of GTPS, an organisation she had been associated with for many years, she also displayed her work in 2 multi-artist exhibition as part of efforts to revitalise the centre.

Ela's work can currently be seen hanging on the walls of 3 galleries in Gdansk: Blik, Glaza and Jackiewicz.