KOWALSKI vs PICASSO

Art Exhibition “Synergy” by Nicholas Kowalski.

November, 2019. Goethe Institut, Accra, Ghana.

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I recently read somewhere that the power and beauty of art lie in its potential to be interpreted. Such a lucid statement indeed.

Walking into this exhibition, I did not know what to expect. This was one of the times where I blindly followed my instincts and hoped I was making the right decision. I even had no idea what the artist or his works looked like, but ah well, a perfect way to stay out of the Accra-Spintex evening traffic.

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Upon entering the colourful room filled with large oil on canvas paintings, was a bunch of dazzled faces all admiring different pieces of work. Steadily looking around, now I gradually get to know about the artist. All the paintings are not only thought-provoking and filled with fun bright colours, they are also gleaming with excellent tiny cubic pieces forming wonderful images that tell of Ghanaian and African pride.

This colour-filled exhibition entitled “Synergy” achieves a great feat. From a distance, each artwork looks quite familiar. Like a piece of art you’ll come across browsing through the tightly clustered small artefacts shops on the Osu Oxford street. However, the artist Nicholas Kowalski’s ingenuity shines through as he embeds each element on the canvas with layers of subtlety and depth at the same time. The way the different pieces crystallise on the canvas is divine and you can’t help but keep staring.

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Speaking at an art talk organised at the same venue, two weeks after the opening, Kowalski explains why the title “Synergy”. Synergy because each painting endeavours to bring all the elements of art harmoniously into a cohesive, distinctive and structured manner – shapes, lines, form, texture, value and colour in all their glory.

Kowalski a Ghanaian from the Central Region, also attributes his rich artistic vocabulary to his recent trip around all the regions of Ghana; staying and soaking in as much of the culture from each group, while seeking connections and points of divergence.

It was also quite interesting to hear him speak about his escapades in the 90s from London to New York, when New York was the melting pot of art and creativity.

Commenting generally on the concept of cubic art, Kowalski explains that Picasso picked influences from his encounter with African masks. This hit me as quite an eye-opening take on the subject. Cubic art or cubism is a style of modern art spearheaded by Pablo Picasso in the 20th century in his quest to challenge conventional forms and to express new ways of seeing the new world.

Circling back to the artworks on display, it is quite obvious Kowalski’s strong affinity for fishes. He credits this iteration to his study of the nature of fishes and the many lessons inherent thereof. According to him, fishes are amazing creatures that have mastered their craft and are also truly free in the entire sense of the word.   

On the whole, this was a splendid exhibition, from the conversations  had and connections made during the opening to the insights shared and gathered during the art talk. Works of art, seen and appreciated in different ways trigger dialogue and further challenge our normal habits of thinking. Art urges us to keep questioning what we “know” all in an effort to move ahead in life.

I left the exhibition with one daunting question in mind… What is your favourite Kowalski? The simplicity and contrasts in this piece below makes it a huge contender.

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