Piotr Nowak in search of INFINITY.
In less than a decade, Piotr Nowak has established himself on the international art scene. He has exhibited extensively from South Korea to Portugal, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, France and Taiwan. What is the driving force behind this young sculptor and what makes him stand out?
Through his artwork Nowak reveals a continuous experimental approach to what sculpture can be. This is not only a creative force within itself, but a search of contemporary relevance in a digital era that contradicts the notion of objects and social structures in permanence. Through his sculptural work he questions what art and life can be.
Born in Poland and living in Norway, he is confronted by cultural diversity on a daily basis. This reality check is perhaps the motivation and dedication, based on curiosity and a search for identity, that gives an insight into his artistic approach. His art reflects the contemporary international artistic discourse where his sculptural interpretation of materials and his presentation as installation art, is dominant. The sculptures are not necessarily to be viewed as separate entities but objects in a more literal perspective, as a comprehensible whole, a journey.
At the same time, his artwork is a reflection and understanding of the cultural context of his Polish heritage. Two of the most prominent influences in his conceptual approach to art is the artwork of Roman Opalka 1931 – 2011 and the theory of Unism devised by Wladyslaw Strzeminski 1893 – 1952.
In his own words he states “I work thematically with conceptual thoughts around infinity, not only as an abstract entity, but as concrete spatial investigations. By doing so I try to understand the human ability to perceive artworks by relating to scale, texture and the recognition factor”. He is especially fascinated by the concept of infinity, and the diversity found in human beings. Although our brains are “molded in the same form” they are completely and uniquely different. This is specifically evident in his installation work titled: Cortex, where the brain modules, in their vastness, creates what Wikipedia defines as a concept describing something, without any bound, or something larger than any natural number. Furthermore, his projects: Ketchup & Blue Sky and Mellow Rage include this philosophical approach.
However, it is his large-scale architectural work that stands out and defines his career so far. His association to Gimhae ClayArch Museum in South Korea and Tommerup Ceramic Studio in Denmark is no coincidence. His ambitious first sculptural projects in 2011 at the Oslo National Academy of Art, were large-scale. They created attention and became the starting point of his international networking, including residencies and exhibitions. He has produced a number of public art commissions in Norway with great success. They demonstrate his ability to understand the importance of scale, relating to architecture and the surrounding landscape.
One of Piotr Nowak’s strengths as a sculptor is his understanding of architectural form. Essentially this means he has an understanding of the concepts of scale and proportion and his work can be scaled up or down without the loss of aesthetic integrity. To make works that have the potential to be sited alongside a building or within a building, as a part of its integral design, is a relatively rare accomplishment. It is, however, a useful skill for a contemporary sculptor to possess because the context for most sculpture is urban. The majority of artists who work in clay see the context for their work as domestic. This is not the case of Piotr Nowak. His sculpture “Biomorphic Columns” has both urban and architectural qualities. It is monumental and sinister at the same time. It is an outstanding piece of art that creates emotions and can be understood as a comment to the continuous challenges of change. This particular sculpture embodies his perception of sculpture, tradition and the future.
His numerous projects, interpreting space by constructing sculptures, walls and columns within an architecturally articulated space, create a strong visual experience. His ongoing experiments of indoor and outdoor installations have redefined the potential of clay in a modular system. The aesthetics of his work and the sensibilities of the materials combined produce an atmosphere of monumentality, yet always incorporating a human dimension through the detailing of the modules and the use of light and shadow to articulate form. His work is sophisticated, carrying a link from the past but creating something new.
We live in a culture where the analytical perspective to virtually every aspect of life, including art, is a basic concern. We no longer live in a culture where status quo is accepted without question and where the next step automatically follows from the one before. We live in an age in which each step, the next project, the simplest things have to be redefined each time. We have to question the following. What is space? What is sculpture? What is art? What is infinity?
Answers to these questions are not self-evident anymore. Analyzing these terms has become an essential part of being an artist. We have to question how sculpture and public art can relate to the changing ideals of architecture, the constant change of urban landscape and the impact of new social media. It is within this context that Piotr Nowak has a role to play in realizing artistic projects that are meaningful and challenging to our sense of permanence and infinity.
National Academy of the Arts Oslo