Sculpting a friendship with Wojciech Pietranik and Berendina de Ruiter

24 Jan 2024

Wojciech Pietranik

Wojciech considers “Sculpture is a passion. It’s the reason for life.”

Wojciech was born in Gdańsk, Poland, and he achieved a Masters in Sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts. Between 1975 and 1985 he worked freelance and exhibited his work in Poland and internationally. He specialised in conservation work and also taught sculpture to high school students in Gdynia. He then spent time in England, intending to return to Poland but instead, in 1985, he moved to Australia and became a sculpture teacher.

At the Canberra School of Art, he was introduced to Churchill Fellow Berendina de Ruiter, one of the few sculptors in Canberra who also carved in stone. Their long-term friendship now sees them sharing a studio.

In 1989 Wojciech began working for the Royal Australian Mint as a designer and engraver. His designs have since featured on the reverse of many Australian commemorative coins. Today he is recognised as a Polish artist and sculptor best known for his design work for coins and medals.

His work was chosen out of 18 artists and jewellery designers to be invited to submit a design for the Olympic Medal that would be awarded at the 20000 Summer Games hosted in Sydney. The final version of the medal measured 68 mm in diameter, 5 mm in thickness, and weighed 180 grams.

In 2010 The Royal Australian Mint celebrated his 20 years of design and sculpture work with an exhibition entitled  Striking Art Lasting Impressions , housing collections of his coins and the Olympic medal designs.

In 1992 Wojciech was awarded his Churchill Fellowship to improve personal skills in bas-relief sculpture for coins and medals design. His Fellowship allowed him access to the prestigious School of Medallic Art in Rome, Italy.

At the time Wojciech was awarded his Fellowship he was working at The Royal Australian Mint as one of the professional designers responsible for medals and coins. His designs have featured on many Australian commemorative coins.

Wojciech was one of 18 artists to submit a design for the 2000 Sydney Olympic medals and was successful with his design that appeared on the gold, silver and bronze medals. There was considerable criticism surrounding the design as the International Olympic Committee wanted the Colosseum and a chariot rider represented, despite the Colosseum being in Rome not Athens where the Games originated. Wojciech amended the design but due to time constraints the Sydney Olympic Committee proceeded with the original design which comprised the traditional Goddess of Victory, Nike, holding a palm in her left hand and a winner’s crown in her right on the obverse, and the Sydney Opera House, the Olympic torch and the Olympic rings on the verse.

In the year 2000 the Churchill Trust decided to replace the formal certificate that was presented to Fellows upon completion of their Fellowship reports with something more meaningful. You can read more about it here.

In 2010 his 20th anniversary there was marked in 2010 with a special exhibition of the coins and medallions he had designed. They included commemorative coins for aspects of Australian history, such as the Gallipoli Anzacs and the Eureka Stockade, but the coin design he is most proud of is Kangaroo at Sunset. His work also graces the medallions presented to winners of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. His work is held by the British Museum, the Royal Coin Cabinet in Sweden and in private collections across the world.

Today, Wojciech produces a vast array of contemporary and traditional sculptures in marble, limestone, basalt and bronze and has produced a number of medals depicting religious images.  He has been commissioned to produce a number of public art pieces.

You can read Wojciech’s Fellowship Report here.

Berendina de Ruiter

Berendina was bon in the Netherlands in 1942 and now lives in Canberra, sharing a studio with Wojciech Pietranik CF. Berendina’s passion is in art, especially sculpture.

Berendina is a Dutch-born Australian artist working in Italian Carrara and Australian marble and other stones. She strives for beauty, harmony and serenity in her work. She has worked with masters in Tuscany where she learned to carve the beautiful Carrara marble. She has exhibited and worked on commissions in Australia, Holland and Germany.

Berendina left the Netherlands after obtaining a degree in nursing. She went to Germany to work in a university clinic. When she stopped work to have her two children. In 1972 she studied painting part time, then between 1976 and 1980 she studied painting and ceramics there. In 1977 she exhibited her work at Gallery 3 in Cloppenburg, Germany.

In 1981 Berendina moved to Australia and in 1982 studied sculpture at the Canberra Institute of the Arts, gaining a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree.

Berendina has exhibited extensively throughout Canberra, NSW as well as internationally, including Italy, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, the UK, Vietnam and New York. Berendina has been commissioned to produce sculptures in Australia, Netherlands and Germany.

Berendina was awarded her Fellowship in 2002 to study stone carving and participate in workshops in Pietrasanta at Studio Sem in Carrara, Italy. Berendina works in marble and stone to produce contemporary sculptures which reflect harmony and serenity.

You can read Beredina’s Fellowship Report here.

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