Uwe Kowski
Solo exhibition
Galerie EIGEN + ART Berlin
January 15 through February 21, 2015
Opening: January 15, 2015, 5 - 9 pm


The exhibition treiben (Drifting) features new works by Uwe Kowski that were produced in 2014.

Uwe Kowski's paintings are snapshots in time, painted moments that make reference to something he has seen—or something he could have seen: a detail that he picked up on while out on the street or on the way to his studio. In his paintings, one can detect how these thoughts formally develop and change, and how during the painting process they assume forms that are different than the original ones, how they drift and coalesce to create a very distinct system. Kowski often does not know beforehand what the finished picture will ultimately look like; however, he has a rough idea of the coloration, structure, and composition it needs. Every idea requires its own method, and although the brush ductus, forms, and the color palette within paintings produced at the same time strongly differ from one another, they are connected by a unifying signature and the immediate reaction they trigger in the viewer. The titles supply a stimulus for a chain of associations; can encapsulate a very ordinary pictorial idea, such as in Holz (Wood), which can be traced back to the idea of a piece of forest; or they can completely mislead viewers, leaving them behind with their own spontaneous impressions: in Spielfeld (Playing Field), the light pictorial ground is strewn with white bulbs of different sizes that cannot be readily assigned to a particular sport, just like in the painting Turnhalle (Gymnasium), which without knowing the title calls to mind anything but a gym. Yet this is also based on a concrete idea: a press image of a gymnasium that has been converted into a refugee camp, and in which blankets, mats, and clothing with different patterns and forms combine to become nothing more than a mass of colorful surfaces.

"In the broadest sense, my theme is the environment with myself in it and everything that happens around me." Without wanting to charge the paintings with meaning, Kowski is primarily concerned with painting as such and the possibilities it affords. He encounters the subjects in his pictures taking pleasure in the trivial and the everyday—his landscape paintings, if one may perceive them as such, are not likenesses of nature but notions of landscapes that deal with the composition of colors, the distribution of light and dark areas, and the emergence of depth spaces on the two-dimensional surface of the canvas.

Uwe Kowski got the idea for his most recent works, a series of paintings that feature graphic, grid-like forms more markedly than previous works do, after taking a casual glance at his mottled studio floor. He used everyday patterns and familiar systems of symbols that one steps and walks on in daily life—a parking lot with its repetitive markings (Platz [Lot]), the floor of a gymnasium with painted-on rules in the form of colored playing field boundaries (Regel [Rule]), or the dirty asphalt of a sidewalk dotted with discarded and flattened pieces of chewing gum in London. Here priority is given to the raw, pure form and the indefinable structure of something completely familiar that one might find anywhere. Unlike in treiben (Drifting) or Holz (Wood), in which vertical lines are necessary in order to introduce precision into the picture and to subdue and order the colors, which are eager to take on a life of their own, visible systems of order themselves now become the occasion for producing a painting.

Somewhat removed from these, but always produced in parallel, is the series of small-format (self-)portraits to which Kowski has devoted himself for several years now. With these head studies he turns towards probably the most classic subject in art history.

Emptied of any characterizing and individual anatomical features, nackt (Naked) presents the portrait, a bust, as an empty shell, projection surface, and pure form. In the painting of the same name, Er (He) can only hazily be distinguished from the impasto, vertical brushstrokes on the painting's surface through the use of another color—flesh color—while the dark, spotted head unter der Sonne (Under the Sun) clearly stands out from the uniformly reddish-pink background, if only as an expressive accumulation of colors that the viewer recognizes as a head thanks to the familiar form. Uwe Kowski's pictures are a serious game, an exploration of possibilities with the aid of painting.

Text by Leonie Pfennig