A two-person show, ‘Across the Land and Water’ was exhibited at ArtChowk earlier this month. The exhibition featured etching and aquatint prints by Australian artists, Damon Kowarsky and Mathew Greentree.
The show featured a combination of collaborations of both the artists as well as solo works from Kowarsky. As the title aptly suggests, the prints tell stories from numerous cities across the globe. The artist is an avid traveler and creates detailed drawings upon visiting any place. Kowarsky brings the viewer imagery from a great number of cities including India, Japan, Yemen, and Pakistan. These sketches then emerge as splendidly intricate etchings, usually filled in with monochromatic shades using the printmaking technique of aquatint.
Kowarsky is no stranger to Pakistan; teaching and displaying in the country has made his style and imagery familiar with many. He is also no stranger to collaborations; his previous collaborative include works with Australian artist, Kyoko Imazu and then with Pakistani artist, Muhammad Atif Khan. The artist explains that collaborations are like conversations and can be quite successful with the right partner. Both times, the imageries merged to create something new and exciting and this show was no different.
Upon entering the gallery, the audience is first introduced to the collaborative prints from both Kowarsky and Greentree. Printed in shades of grey, the renders describe scenes that are all too familiar to the local audience. The limited colour palette successfully illustrates the polluted, congested atmosphere any city dweller would view from their apartment window. The guns are anything but alien to the Pakistani viewers, who are immediately unsettled yet accustomed to their presence.
Quite often viewers are so drawn into an artwork that, in that transient, the actual presence of the artist is forgotten; there is a focus on the stimulus of senses the work is providing and nothing else in that moment. However, here it is quite different. Pale hands reach out from the bottom of the surfaces interacting with the objects surrounding it. A realization of the creator of the imagery emerges in much the same way a photographer makes his presence known by physically introducing a part of their body into their photograph.
At first, tension is generated as guns come in contact with the faceless hands, creating anxious environments for both the audience and the figures populating the pieces. However, anxiety turns to thoughtfulness as ‘Holding Pattern’ shows a gentler and therefore, alternate personality of the owner of these hands; creating juxtaposition and consequently, comprehension into the multifaceted creature that is the human.
Moving along, Kowarsky’s solo exhibits are displayed. One of the initial differences between both oeuvres is the hues. Though both monochromatic, which is commonplace for prints, the solo work is fashioned with subtle brown shades. The use of this colour results from inspiration drawn from the naturalness of the sky and earth and is also a general style in previous works. There is a fascination with people and architecture which is again uniform in the artist’s prints. The essence of entering a new land, forced to emerge with unfamiliar cultures and spaces can be seen in the work.
Kowarsky’s images are quietly static, freezing the ephemerality of its contents and preserving it for all to see. On the other hand, Greentree is a video-maker and his interest lies in the art of storytelling which is illustrated by means of overlapping and translucence which are evident from the multiple hands. The marriage of their styles gives birth to a perfect amalgamation of stillness and movement, both capturing the evanescent instant and yet developing short stories in the audience’s mind.