Page Index

  1. Dedication

  2. Acknowledgement

  3. Joseph Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski
    Artist and Pioneer















































Explorer in Sound and Light

Explorer in Sound and Light is a study of the works of Joseph Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski, which argues his place as a pioneer in the development of experimental arts in Australia from his introduction of Abstract Expressionism to the Australian art fraternity, his development of Theatre Set Design, Sound and Image productions and his experimentation with electronic images, laser beam technology and performance. The study accounts for his significance as an artist within the Australian context, demonstrating his stature and influence by including three examples of original works of the author that derive much of their inspiration from knowledge of Ostoja's work. The original works are not intended to parallel or reproduce the performance works of Ostoja, but to demonstrate intentions, methodology and inspiration derived from both within personal philosophy of the author and the study of the master artist.

The study discusses the comparison between the profiles that Ostoja engendered within the diversity of his audiences. These varied from the critical and sometimes hostile attitudes of members of the artist communities, who often failed to categorise Ostoja within their own visions of the purpose of contemporary Australian art forms, to the “groupie” nature of the technologically interested audience whose knowledge of art was probably less but whose appreciation of the experimental nature of the artist was more accepting of the radical nature of Ostoja’s work.

It is important to note the transient nature of many Ostoja’s works. He worked beyond the safety of gallery walled, physically extant and describable art works. While these were represented within Ostoja’s output, and are of significance for their artistic precision and integrity, representing those elements that have managed to survive the rigors of memory and time, the experimental nature of the artist was probably of more significance. In a recent discussion of Ostoja’s output with the curator of the Charles Sturt University Art Collection, Tom Middlemost, he suggested that Ostoja’s works were showing the degradation of time and that colours, especially in the Op Art works, were fading and were in need of conservation (This, he suggested, was a symptom of the nature of the materials used at the time, and by no means restricted to the works of Ostoja. This is an element of concern for the preservation of works of many artists of the period).

The more transient works include the experimentation with new materials, electronic media and indeed, the formation of entirely new art forms. Of prime importance to the present study, was the transitory nature of his sound and image productions and the grand scale sculptural performance works using lasers, image  and sound. The present study discusses the transitory nature of these works. It is this aspect of Ostoja’s work, which has made them of great importance to the author whose own works, as represented in this study, use and develop the idea that the presentation exists only for the time of performance, developing the transitory symbiotic relationship between sound and visual elements, using materials and resources, including human enthusiasm and availability, on hand at the time and extending the nature of the resources, by allowing combinations of them. These combinations become the work and the relationship between the elements can never be reproduced exactly enough to be considered to be the same work.

This study is a combination of a discussion of the works of the Polish/Australian artist Joseph Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922-1994) and those of the author.

I had the opportunity to have contact with Ostoja as both an observer and as a participant in several theatre productions. I was later to visit Ostoja in his Stirling studio on a number of occasions and was able to discuss aspects of his extensive output covered within this study. It was, however, the Sound and Image performances in the early Adelaide Festivals that attracted the attention of the author as a young student and which sparked an overall interest in experimental theatre and music that has resulted in the composition of many works including the large-scale performance pieces including Meditation and "In the Hands of Children" and theatre set design including Orfeo, presented within this study.

The decision to restrict the present study of Ostoja's work to the years before 1975 was made because this is the period of Ostoja's output up to and including the time in which the author had contact with him. It is the period that Ostoja had his greatest influence, especially within the Adelaidian cultural community, and consequently on the artistic development of the young student who found the ground breaking efforts of the master artist an inspiration that would survive many years. Much of the context of the information contained is taken from this personal (and peer) knowledge of Ostoja, the era and the place.

In addition, the amount of material that became available to the author through the Mortlock Collection at the State Library in South Australia, and through other sources, was far beyond the scope of the present study. Ostoja was an obsessive collector of information and with this he has provided material for several studies of the scope of the present work.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the study is concerned with the period where Ostoja was the instigator of the technology that he required to present his works to the public. He was an inventor of considerable expertise through the use of the knowledge of many fascinated technicians. After the period to 1975, I would argue, Ostoja increasingly needed to rely on existing technologies including computers and extant software. He became less involved in the large scale public multi-media performances and more involved in the production of computer driven images. This is not intended to state that the artist's output was of less worth after that period but that the output was of a different and extended nature and perhaps, again, the subject of further study.

Of particular interest to the author from the life of Ostoja is his childhood experimentation with sound and the influence of dreams upon his adult work. As a student he discovered the importance of music to his work and throughout his career he was constantly concerned with the painting of sound. These influences are detailed in the first chapter under the heading Childhood Experimentation.

As a pioneer of Australian experimental arts Ostoja's foresight and imagination are discussed in detail under the heading Ostoja: Beginning Multimedia. This discussion of his collaboration with Philips Industries (Hendon, South Australia) places Ostoja at the forefront of the development of multimedia and he was arguably the first to produce electronically derived images with the intention of displaying them as art works. Geographic isolation from the centres of world art movements, conspired to confine him to relative international obscurity despite his formidable and documented output.

Equally at home with a paintbrush, a camera or in the theatre stage design, Ostoja provided the means of expression through experimentation, ingenuity and the ability to see beyond convention. Throughout the study these matters are detailed within the various art forms with which he was engaged. Also detailed is the practical application of the derived means including the mediums of Sound and Image, electronic image experimentation, light and laser beam sculpturing, photography, film and theatre set design and, of course the combination of them in his performance works.

Included in the chapters specifically discussing Ostoja's work are two discussions intended as a bridge to the detailed chapters of the author's works. The first, The Problems of Time discusses the uniqueness of performance. While some elements of a performance of the type in which Ostoja was involved can be reproduced, the complexity of the juxtaposition of improvised elements and chance makes each performance unique. In the second, under the heading The Question of Being First, I discuss the problems within the present context of establishing "firstness" and whether this is of importance to the establishment of an artist. Ostoja was arguably first in many of the new mediums within which he worked. Does the lack of recognition of this degrade the quality of the work and does it really matter?

The chapters Meditation, Orpheus and "In the Hands of Children" detail the three original works presented during the period of research. Each work bears elements that have been derived from the inspiration of Ostoja's work in the period to 1975. During the course of my study I experimented with many other elements such as theremins, sound works and conventional composition, with the intention of possible inclusion in the pieces. Upon refinement of intention and practical realization many of these elements proved to be inappropriate within the final context and had to be discarded from the present usage. This process of elimination of the less appropriate material, not necessarily material of lesser worth, is a refinement of process that is fundamental to the creative process.

The two productions, Meditation and "In the Hands of Children" are not designed as works illustrative of the sound and light aspects of Ostoja's work. They derive their inspiration from the works of Ostoja and from within the author's own experience and philosophy. They do, however demonstrate the use of improvisation that Ostoja used in his filming of experimental films (see Sound and Image - Experimentation - Improvisation - Film and Image) and the use and importance of music within Ostoja's work (see chapter Inspiration - Childhood Experimentation, Chapter -Sound and Image - Orpheus and Beyond  and  From Penderecki's Passion - The squealing of pigs). There is extensive information in the chapter Tripping the Light Fantastic where the work Synchronos '72 is detailed. Within the body of the study there is detailed information about the use of text within Ostoja's works. This varies from the poems of R.H. Morrison, David Malouf, Edwin Muir, Harold Stewart and Clare Robertson and others. Of particular interest to the study is the poem Tidal Element written by Clare Robertson. This poem was part of a series that were computer generated at the Adelaide University's computer centre and were the first performed computer poems generated in Australia. This abstract use of words as sounds is paralleled in the works Meditation and "In the Hands of Children" where text is manipulated.  The poem is detailed in chapter Sound and Image- 1966 and 1968 Sound and Image - Adelaide Festival of Arts.

Experimentation with projected images within the context of set design, using the principles that Ostoja pioneered including rear projection, proved very successful and is detailed in the chapter entitled Orfeo. In this chapter there is a discussion of the influence that Ostoja had on the design through the research in which I was involved at the time.

The DVD's presented in this exegesis are reproductions and re-presentations of the processes involved in the composition and performance of the works Meditation and "In the Hands of Children"; they are not the processes themselves. The television recording of Meditation was the first recording of any of my works (with the exception of electronic music compositions that were designed with taped recording as the means of presentation). The aleatoric nature of my work has been the foundation of my experimentation with my art form and the process of recording has been rejected previously in order to protect the integrity of the uniqueness of each performance. This recording thus created a dilemma for which I had to seek a viable solution. When I have been called on to discuss the work Meditation at conferences (CSU and ANU), I have made the point that the work was not intended to be viewed after the initial performance (discussed in Meditation - The Memory as a Record). The elements of chance and the relationship of all elements within the performance do not exist once the work has been “set in concrete”. The recording becomes merely a reproduction of a performance and is not the performance itself. It does not include the aural and visual three dimensionality of the original – only the fourth dimension of time perhaps remains true to the original. Consequently, each time the work has been represented, by the display of the recording, I have displayed at least two, and up to four, different, randomly selected sections from the work and played them at the same time on the same projection screen. This provides a “remix” of the images and the accompanying sound thus, in real time, creating a new version of the work for the occasion and by extension a new work which, like the original, existed only for the time that it was being performed.

The "non-print" aspects of the presentation were not designed to parallel and illustrate exactly the Sound and Image principles that Ostoja presented throughout the period under study. The works Meditation and "In the Hands of Children" are original works which engage many of the aspects of Ostoja's work as an inspiration and as a starting point for development. At a different time and using different resources the works would change and it is this variability and the freedom to use it that parallels Ostoja ideas.

Ostoja used the interaction between the available human resources, visual elements and sounds, whether experimental or conventional, as a foundation for the performance works, fusing them with the technology that he was developing at the time. In parallel these principles were applied also to the two performance works and the Orfeo set design presented within this exegesis.

Ostoja was keen to produce his own sounds to accompany his Sound and Image productions. He expressed the disappointment that his family had not encouraged his aural sense from an early age. He reiterated the desire to paint sound in his canvas works and in this he inspired the inclusion of the painters, interacting directly with the sound-scapes as they evolved, in both Meditation and "In the Hands of Children".

Despite his fascination with sound, however, his lack of musical training dictated the need to rely on the musicality of others. In the Sound and Image productions, he used live music (as in the case of Jazz Musician Dave Dallwitz), specially composed works including those of Richard Meale and Peter Tahourdin, or pre-recorded music. Conversely, the visual inclusion of painters working during the performances of Meditation and "In the Hands of Children" within this study is a result of the author’s lack of painting training and the techniques that would be required to produce a painting as a major element in a work of performance art.

Ostoja incorporated original music in projects such as Synchronos '72, where the music played an equal part with the images, enlisting the works of Don Banks, Larry Sitsky, Don Burrows and John Sankster amongst others. Here there was an interaction between Ostoja's images and the musicians' sounds. It was the images that were interactive while the music was generally rehearsed and performed as written. It was the improvised but conventional jazz work of Burrows and Sankster in Synchronos '72 that suggested the importance of the music to the productions under discussion (Meditation and "In the Hands of Children"). The experimental nature of the compositions suggested the conjunction between image, (in this case in the form of evolutionary paintings) and sound.

When evolving "In the Hands of Children" I had intended to incorporate a cubic screen above the audience onto which I had planned to project images of children at risk. (This inclusion, in a simplified version, had been incorporated into a performance work entitled The Double-edged Gift  (2001) which was similarly based on the rights of the child and presented as part of an experimental music festival in the Riverina.) The screen was to be gently filled with smoke to “grab” the image and to produce a three-dimensional abstracted image. My experimentation had been successfully carried out previously and incorporated into the production of Orfeo, discussed in the chapter entitled The Design Process of Orfeo. A decision was made, however, that this addition of projected image to the work ran the risk of being bleached out by the brilliance of the television studio lighting and it was dropped from the work.

It is important to note that, in a personal conversation in his Stirling studio (1970), Ostoja discussed the upheaval of his life in Europe during the Second World War. He became a refugee in a world of refugees. He was separated from his family. The world, as he knew it, no longer existed. This discussion began the concern for human rights that has been a major part of my performance works since (including AnSoc'70 (1970), Silent Prisoner (1998) Beyond Conscience (1999)And Heaven Fails (1999), Double Edged Gift (2001) and others).

The two productions, Meditation and "In the Hands of Children" are not designed as works illustrative of the sound and light aspects of Ostoja's work. They derive their inspiration from the works of Ostoja and from within the author's own experience and philosophy. They do, however demonstrate the use of improvisation that Ostoja used in his filming of experimental films (see Sound and Image - Experimentation - Improvisation - Film and Image) and the use and importance of music within Ostoja's work (see chapter Inspiration - Childhood Experimentation, Chapter -Sound and Image - Orpheus and Beyond  and  From Penderecki's Passion - The squealing of pigs). There is extensive information in the chapter Tripping the Light Fantastic where the work Synchronos '72 is detailed. Within the body of the study there is detailed information about the use of text within Ostoja's works. This varies from the poems of R.H. Morrison, David Malouf, Edwin Muir, Harold Stewart and Clare Robertson and others. Of particular interest to the study is the poem Tidal Element written by Clare Robertson. This poem was part of a series that were computer generated at the Adelaide University's computer centre and were the first performed computer poems generated in Australia. This abstract use of words as sounds is paralleled in the works Meditation and "In the Hands of Children" where text is manipulated.  The poem is detailed in chapter Sound and Image- 1966 and 1968 Sound and Image - Adelaide Festival of Arts.


Here there is a parallel to be drawn between the Impressionist musicians, such as Debussy and Ravel, who were able to express a wide range of contrasting emotional states in manners revolutionary for the times, and the freedoms that Ostoja enjoyed in the expression of visual elements derived from sound. His equivalent in shape and colour is to be found in the works of Cage and the composers who used sound as a free source of expression

Ostoja-Kotkowski, Stanislaw, De Berg Tapes, No 448. Australian National Library 17th December 1969






Dedicated to the memory of three extraordinary South Australians.

Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922 - 1994)

Ian Davidson (1928 - 2000)

Derek Jolly (1927 - 2002)









Ian Davidson in his natural element







Ostoja-Kotkowski and entrepreneur Derek Jolly



Ostoja's first laser produced image 196,
Weapons Research Establishment,
Salisbury, South Australia.











This study has been a personal journey of discovery of the works and influences of the life of an extraordinary artist and the importance of knowledge of past artistic experimentation in the evolution of future presentations.

I would firstly like to acknowledge two characters who readily shared their personal knowledge of Ostoja-Kotkowski with me with an urgency that indicated both their belief in the need for documentation and in the finite nature of life.

The first was Ian Davidson, a quiet, unassuming man, a filmmaker and photographer, dedicated to a talent that remains largely unacknowledged. He made contact with me and generously shared his personal and extensive knowledge of Ostoja. He sent me one of the few copies of his book, Art, Theatre and Photography, Remembering Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922 - 1994), which has served as a chronological basis for information about Ostoja and an immediate source of information of the times they worked together. Ian rang me from his home in the Adelaide hills one day and talked of his love of music, and film and theatre, displaying an extraordinary, eclectic knowledge of the avant guard. Sadly, soon after he hung up the telephone, he died. He had been seriously ill for all the time I knew him and, only when I read his obituary, did I discover why this man was able to speak with authority and confidence. He was a fine artist of indomitable spirit.

The second was Derek Jolly. Derek was an extraordinary entrepreneur to whom Adelaide owes a great debt of gratitude. He was proudly a member of the Penfolds family in South Australia. As a young man he raced formula-one cars for the Lotus racing team at Le Mans. He developed an intense knowledge of photography and toured Europe photographing the battlefields of the two great wars. With a personal gift, by Benjamin Britten, of a copy of the BBC master recording of his War Requiem, he produced a Son et Lumiere production, which was performed in Adelaide and Melbourne, depicting the futility of war. In the late 1960's Derek purchased a Moog Synthesiser Mark III and donated its use to the Elder Conservatorium of Music at the Adelaide University. It is this donation that allowed the introduction to electronic music composition of the author of this study. It is not long ago that I was able to interview Derek Jolly in his modest home in the Barossa Valley where his spirit was as strong as it was in his heydays. He died leaving sadness in my heart and a debt of gratitude to his lifetime generosity.

Others who made my study of the work of Ostoja possible include June Edwards who was allocated the job of cataloguing the tonnes of material donated to the Mortlock Library in Adelaide, by the estate of Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski. June's ready knowledge of the collection and her ability to go to the right folder at the right time proved invaluable. Her work within the Mortlock Library demonstrates the need for conservation of documentation of the people who weave the diverse carpet of Australian cultural life.

Stephen and David Barnett of Adelaide have provided me with a suitcase full of documentation that was a very valuable starting point for my research. They sought me out when I made enquiries about Ostoja-Kotkowski and they provided me with the most important contact with Ian Davidson. David demonstrated one of Ostoja's Theramins that he was able to purchase a few years ago. It was Stephen who eventually told me of the death of Ian Davidson.

I acknowledge, with gratitude, the generosity of the Executors of the Estate of Ostoja, especially Edward Booth, who gave me permission for the use of materials in the estate within my study.

It was with pleasure that I contacted R.H Morrison who had been supportive of Ostoja from his first exhibition in 1955. Through his son, Professor Rob Morrison of Flinders University, I was given permission to reproduce an example of his poetry, written for the 1960 Sound and Image production of Orpheus. Perhaps the most valuable interaction between artists is that which triggers new work from inspiration of observation.

Interviews both formal and informal were carried out during the research period of the study and these were of value mainly with background information and comments about Ostoja and his work. These included extended interviews with Derek Jolly, Ian Davidson and Graham Milne. Others who provided direct information included David Malouf, R.H. Morrison, Anthony Steel, Don Burrows, Larry Sitsky, Terry McGee, Leonard Porter, David Bishop and others. Indirectly, the multitude of recorded interviews with Ostoja (Mortlock Collection) made for presentation in the media and, of course, the interviews made by Hazel De Berg and lodged in the National Library in Canberra, were of great value in the chronological formation of the work. The foresight of Hazel De Berg in interviewing many Australians including artists provides a valuable ongoing source of detailed personal information for posterity.

Within Charles Sturt University I would like to acknowledge the valued assistance given by Professor William Fitzwater, Patrick McNamarra, Patrick Sproule, Fred Goldsworthy, the students and staff of the Television Department and all those who performed in the works documented in this study. Above all, from CSU I would like to thank the patience and advice of Professor David Green, my main supervisor and an exceptional artist.

Thanks to my friend and proof reader Dr Malcolm Holmes whose gentle advice and analytical eyes are much appreciated.

I especially recognise the input of Tessa Bremner whose inspiration has been part of my life for many years. Tessa's performance in Meditation and "In the Hands of Children", and her direction of the production of Monteverdi's Orfeo, the major works detailed within this study were inspired. Without her input this study would not have been possible.




Has he something to say,
A little different from what
anyone has said before,
And has he found,
not only a different way of saying it,
But the different way of saying it which expresses the difference in what he is saying?

T.S. Elliot

Elliot T.S..What is Minor Poetry?, On Poetry and Poets, Faber 1957


Give me six months to research and I could produce a great mural using sunlight.
Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski

Elias, David. The man who wants to unbottle sunlight. The Australian, 12/10/1977

He would create a work of art embracing its own nuclear power unit, so it could go on living, changing, reacting in shapes, colours and sounds, and grow, and eventually die, having its own life cycle like a tree or a man. When he makes it, and I hope he will, it might be the ultimate contemporary self-portrait of a man called Ostoja.
John Miles

Miles, John. Ostoja - Portrait of a Space-Age Artist, The Advertiser, Adelaide August 9th 1969. P19







Joseph Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski
Artist and Pioneer

An Introduction


Joseph Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski, known alternatively as Stan, Ostoja and Kotkowski, was a painter, fabric designer, photographer, film maker, sculptor, muralist, inventor, experimentalist, theatre set designer, laser beam artist, sound sculptor, educator, writer, computer image artist; he was an explorer in light; he was described as "the man with light in his eyes". According to Adrian Rawlins, when writing an article entitled Explorer in Light, Ostoja-Kotkowski had two basic aims in the pursuit of his art and its presentation to the public. The first was an expression of the essential qualities of light and the second the freedom of the creative imagination from the impediment of means. Rawlins suggests that Ostoja's sole preoccupation, in fact his overriding obsession, has been to explore every possible artistic avenue to realize these two aims. Rawlins quotes James Gleeson when he calls Ostoja the complete artist-scientist, and Sandra McGrath in her view that Ostoja was a technological genius who uses lasers instead of paint and brushes. He has been described as a man with the energy of three normal men and an intense personality, enthusiastically pushing his ideas and technology to all whom would listen. 1.

In any discussion of the extraordinary artistic output of this Polish born, Australian artist, it is important to understand some of the background that he brought to his adopted Australian home from the devastation and aftermath of the Second World War. Ostoja did not conform to a neat pigeonhole occupied by many of those working within the diversity of cultural life of Australia at the time of his arrival, The same can be said for the rest of his career. If one defines him as a painter it ignores that he was a film maker producing improvised moving images; if he is defined as a theatre set designer, his work as a photographer, an inventor, an entrepreneur, and an experimenter in light and sound may be ignored. It is true that familiarity by those who admired some aspect of his work would often be restricted to that aspect and not to the diversity of his overall output.

Ostoja-Kotkowski was also, through the need to be able to realize the concepts flying in his mind, was also a director and producer, and a technician of (in his own opinion) qualified excellence. It has always been convenient, within the art world, to have a career path described early and for the artist to conform to that image and path. Ostoja was impatient with those who, at the time, attempted to define his art. He broke the rules, he was unafraid of breaking convention and became an expert in many branches of the visual and performing arts whilst his peers were concerned with more closely defined disciplines. While this enabled him to progress through an extraordinary variety of work, it may have also diluted the ultimate quality that an alternative and more conventional lifetime, more restricted to a chosen field could have engendered; had he been more conventional and concentrated on the development of his original idea of making a career of painting, his eminence in Australian art history would perhaps not be a matter of question. He would be recognized for his introduction, to a hungry Australian art fraternity, of Abstract Expressionism. He reveled in the ability to demonstrate the new painting techniques and to explain the philosophy from practical application rather than derived from books and prints. He would be similarly recognized in his development of Pop-Art, and for his experimentation with new painting media. By choice and the dictation of a lively and fertile mind, he was to put behind him those techniques and media with which he had become familiar, to extend his techniques, to seek the impossible and to display techniques that were original and unique.

The initial purpose of this present study is to establish a field of discussion upon which the establishment, or perhaps re-establishment, of the importance of Ostoja-Kotkowski within the Australian cultural ethos can be made. The study cannot give a complete picture of the artist and, as such restricts itself to elements that can be readily seen as the origins and inspirations of the work of Ostoja, paths that he pioneered and the inspiration that his tireless energy provides for the production of new works by artists working within similar boundaries and indeed within the cultural doorways that he constructed.

It is worth bearing in mind that there are some fifty metres of shelf space documentation in the Mortlock Collection in the State Library of South Australiain Adelaide, presented by Ostoja's estate and that it has taken the library officer, June Edwards, several years to catalogue the collection of documents and photographs, and to develop an intimate knowledge of its contents. It is also an indicator of the importance of documentation of artistic output. Ostoja was obviously aware that he was an figure of some importance in the Australian art world. He collected and stored all correspondence, articles, photographs (more than 150,000), criticisms and articles written for journals, books, newspapers and magazines, .

Ostoja is represented in many collections throughout Australia and in several internationally and there is a regeneration of interest in his work slowly emerging. In recent years there have been several publications devoted to Ostoja's work including that of Ian Davidson, which has been the basis of much of the detail in the present study. The materials deposited in the Ballieu Collection in Melbourne University Library and the massive amount of information in the Mortlock Library, which remained un-catalogued until the prompting of interest for this study, has largely been responsible for the ease of access to reliable resources. Since that time there have been several studies indirectly devoted to aspects of Ostoja's output, including a thesis detailing the influence of Polish immigrant artists within Australia, which to date remains unpublished.  In Adelaide there is a group headed by Stephen and David Barnett, which is producing a website, devoted to Ostoja. There have developed several "groupies" who have been involved in the collection of information and the materials with which Ostoja worked. With the completeness of the documentation it is also worth reflecting that the practical objects that would have allowed this study to demonstrate the inventive nature of the man in a practical sense, were either dispersed or irretrievably disposed of over time.

The very real danger exists in the discarding of materials of seemingly little value, by those who may not see the full picture, to the detriment of those who seek to discover the extent of an artistic output. There is also the danger that, once catalogued, the formidable amount of documentation of Ostoja-Kotkowski's output will merely sit upon the shelf and, due to the amount of material, present a formidable and seemingly insurmountable barrier to further study.

In the present study there has been a constant regard for the use of the techniques and the inspiration that Ostoja generated and their application and adaptation to several productions by the author. The machinery may advance through time and seemingly impossible techniques become simple adaptations of common media, but the inspiration and the struggle to achieve through experimentation allows the inspired to benefit from earlier achievements. It is to the experimentation and hard work of artists such as Ostoja that the present generations of artists are enabled, not only to produce the unusual and unique beyond accepted conventions, but also to present the works to ever expanding audiences who are willing to accept the works for their inherent values. The acceptance of the multitude of media that artists such as Ostoja developed, has aided freedom of thought, freedom of experimentation and the acceptance of performance works that were once only able to be realalised in the minds and imaginations of the experimental artists.

This study will, on the other hand, discuss some elements of Ostoja's life and work with the intention of presenting these as examples of the artist's importance within the Adelaide, the Australian and the global cultures. These areas will include the early development and training that enabled him to develop the ability to see past close boundaries, the influence of the Australian environment in his search for his artistic truth, his experimentation with electronic images, the development of technical and mechanical processes needed to overcome practical problems, the involvement in performance works including theatre set design, Sound and Image productions and the techniques involved. Other aspects including photography and film making will be mentioned as they relate to the more detailed aspects of the work.

Also included in this work are the application of the adaptations of practical elements of Ostoja's work in my own work carried out during the time of the study. These include the presentation, in conjunction with the Indonesian painter Hajar Pahmedi, of the work Meditation, The Spirit of Humanity, presented in the television studios at Charles Sturt University, the set design for the Elder Conservatorium of Music presentation of Tessa Bremner's production of Monteverdi's Orfeo, and the recent production of "In the Hands of Children", again presented in the CSU Television studios. By use of these aspects of this study it is intended to demonstrate the importance of the inspiration and practical reference, in combination with personal philosophies, practicalities and experience, of that to which one has contact. My first contact with the work of Ostoja was at the early age of six, my first exposure to ballet, and my last contact was in 1988. In that time I was priveledged to see many of his works in theatre, Sound and Image and public art works especially at the Adelaide Festivals of Arts. I had the priviledge of working with him on some productions as a student at the Elder Conservatorium of Music including the 1968 production of Gluck's opera, Orpheus, which is discussed in conjunction with Tessa Bremner's production of Monteverdi's Orfeo, for the Elder Conservatorium of Music at the Adelaide University. The parallels between the productions and the fact that, as set designer, I was able to call on some of the inspiration of Ostoja's work to provide a practical and experimental set within the parameters required by the specific production (and within the budget specified by the University).

This study involves itself with the career of Ostoja up to 1975. It is theis period, especially the years from 1955 to 1975 when his experimentation lead to such important contributions as the first electronically generated images, the production of live and interactive laser displays, and the production of theatre sets that took the expectations of audiences from the conventional to abstract and kinetic expressions of the elements of the works for which they were designed. It is this period that represents the ground work that allowed extension into his later experimentation with computer generated images, fractals and Mandelbrot images that were the culmination of his extensive career. The period of the study also represents the time in which Ostoja was the originator of the techniques and indeed the machinery required to produce the particular end product he could foresee. Later it was necessary for him to use available computers and to either design the computer programmes required to produce images or to adapt extant programmes. This portion of Ostoja's career would be an ideal basis of further study at a later time.

The study also discusses the importance of observation, practical experimentation and inspiration within the genres required for particular artistic endeavours. There is importance placed on the need for impecable research and interpretation to suit the particular production in the practical design processes of theatre and performance and this can be extrapolated to other areas of artistic endeavour.

To be an artist in a singular field would have been the easier path for Ostoja to follow throughout his career. It was perhaps in the eye of the cultural world that Ostoja did not fit the place in which others would have liked him to sit comfortably. It is doubtful, however, if he would have considered that the many fields of endeavour in which he was a pioneer could have been separated from the whole.



































  1. Rawlins Adrian.J. S. Ostoja-Kotkowski: Explorer in Light Art in Australia Volume 19 Number 3 Autumn 1982.
  Background Image - Ostoja Op Art Work - From a photograph in the Mortlock Collection State Library of South Australia