NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

Freestanding on the floor, is a large sculpture. Not quite large enough to tower over a human, yet with a distinct presence. With a slightly curved pose it seems to be puffing up, at the same time making it impossible to define what its anthropomorph shape is meant to portray – if anything related to nature or specific at all. From an art historian’s point of view this ambiguous sculpture is reminiscent of an architectural element, a sort of canopy – a recurring structure depicted in the numerous portrayals of people of power throughout history. In comparison to these, Nowak’s sculpture comes across as more abstract and less intimidating, yet all the more riddled. Though enigmatic, it triggers doubt and insecurity, but also imagination and fantasy.

When turning towards the wall, a grid of circular-shaped porcelain plates is organized in a strict composition, in stark contrast to the creature-like sculpture. The plates’ material impression is also in contrast to the sculpture, with a specific immediacy in their glaze – evidently applied with energetic gestures and directed by coincidences. On their surface, the silhouette of a glider can be seen, which in combination with the glaze’s electric blue creates an associative oniric mood.

This escapist feel finds its parallel in the ceiling-mounted installation, where a cluster of small 3D-printed gliders leads our gaze towards the sky. The gliders trigger wanderlust and a feeling of escape, not to mention their referencing to infinity – if such a thing even exists. To seemingly be surrounded by infinity when gazing towards the skies is something Nowak reflects upon in the text-piece in the exhibition. Here, he describes a dream where a glider is flying, and shares his thoughts on the notion of absolute freedom. The bounce that a glider makes when the tow-plane lets go once reaching the necessary altitude and speed, the sensation of quietly gliding through air, the impression of standing still although the speedometer tells otherwise – and the feeling of existing towards infinity. The wonder of what science makes possible feels overwhelming, while at the same time the acknowledgment that no one really knows where the sky ends seems incomprehensible.

Somewhere in between these two feelings is the core of Nowak’s project. On one side the reality of flying, and on the other the wonder triggered by the very same action. At the juxtaposition of these a reciprocal, inseparable duality of forever alternating between recognition and fascination, the known and the unknown – aspects which are also reflected in the works’ form and material. Recurrent in Nowak’s practice are in fact also questions related to the specificities of materials, as well as a continuous exploration of those. How far can clay resist to experimentation, and when is a sculpture too big for the kiln? What is the relation between the artist’s ideal work and the reality of the material’s possibilities? How different can the components of an artistic practice be without losing touch with each other? Quite different, as it turns out. Despite variations in output, shapes and materials – Nowak’s exhibited pieces are next to inseparable, embodying aspects of a single whole.

Piotr Nowak (b. 1984 in Olsztyn, Poland) In 2009, he received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the Ceramics Department of the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts. . Nowak began a second Master’s studies in 2009 at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo, Norway, which he completed in 2011. A repeated recipient of the Arts Council Norway stipend (2012, 2013, and 2018), he is an active member of many professional organisations for artists, including as a representative of Norway in the International Academy of Ceramics (IAC). He has participated in several symposia in Europe and Asia, and his works are represented in museums and private collections around the world. In recent years he has been working with art in public space in Norway and Poland. He lives and works in Oslo.

Gallery name: Galleri Format Oslo

Address: Rådhusgaten 24 N-0151, Oslo

Opening hours: Tue-Fri 12:00 - 17:00, Sat-Sun 12:00 - 16:00

Open: 24.09.2020 - 08.11.2020