Alexandra Wejchert, Polish-Irish sculptor known for her use of perspex (plexiglass), stainless steel, bronze and neon colours, dies in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, on October 24, 1995.
Wejchert was born in Kraków, Poland on October 16, 1921. Her father is Tedeusz Wejchert, who ran a shipping business out of Gdańsk. She enters University of Warsaw to study architecture in 1939, and while there witnesses the German invasion of Poland during World War II. Having graduated in 1949, she works as a town planner and architect in Warsaw, where she graduates from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1956 with a degree before moving to Italy.
Wejchert holds her first solo show in 1959 in the Galeria dell’ Obelisco, Rome. She then returns to Warsaw where she is featured in the National Museum “Fifteen years of Polish art” exhibition in 1961. At this time she is still working as an architect, but does not support the social realism of Soviet architecture, which leads her to decide to concentrate solely on art from 1963. She leaves communist Poland in 1964, when she accompanies her younger brother, the architect Andrej Wejchert, when he and his wife Danuta moved to Dublin.
She holds her first solo show in Dublin in November 1966 with an exhibition of 30 paintings at The Molesworth Gallery. In 1967 she shows Blue relief at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art, which is a wall relief of “sculpted paintings” which are precursors to her later free-standing sculpture. She wins the Carroll Open award of £300 at the 1968 Irish Exhibition of Living Art for Frequency No. 5. Also in 1968 she holds a solo exhibition in the Galerie Lamert, Paris, becoming a regular exhibitor there. During this period her work is used as a setting for an electronic music concert with the critic Dorothy Walker noting her designs have a rhythmic quality.
From the 1970s, Wejchert wins commissions for public art, starting with the 1971 wood and acrylic wall relief in the arts building at University College Dublin. In the same year, the Bank of Ireland purchases Blue form 1971 and then Flowing relief in 1972. Her 1971 triptych, Life, is commissioned for the Irish Life headquarters in Abbey Street. The Lombard and Ulster Bank in Dublin commissions untitled in 1980, and Allied Irish Banks (AIB) purchases Freedom in 1985 for their branch in Ballsbridge. Her entry wins a competition in 1975 for a stamp marking International Women’s Year, and features an image of hands reaching for a dove with an olive branch.
Wejchert becomes an Irish citizen in 1979, a member of Aosdána in 1981, and a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1995. She is recognised internationally when she is the only Irish sculptor included in Louis Redstone’s new directions (1981). She is shown at the Solomon gallery from 1989 numerous times, including a solo show in 1992. A number of her most important pieces are for Irish universities, such as Geometric form at the University of Limerick and Flame at the University College Cork in 1995, her last work.
Wejchert dies suddenly at her home on Tivoli Road, Dún Laoghaire on October 24, 1995. She has one son, Jacob. The RHA holds a posthumous exhibition of her work in 1995. She is said to have influenced the younger generation of Irish sculptors, including Vivienne Roche, Eilis O’Connell, and Michael Warren. Flame is selected to be a part of the Irish Artists’ Century exhibition at the RHA in 2000.
(Pictured: “Flame,” 1995, brass and granite, University College Cork. This sculpture commemorates the people who bequested their bodies to the UCC Anatomical Gift Programme for the purpose of science and learning. It represents the flame of knowledge which leads to the light of understanding.)