Disturbances of reality – Kinga Nowak i Anna Panek

In December 2017, Anna Panek and Kinga Nowak met for the first time at the exhibition “Quite Possible” in Lokal_30 Gallery in Warsaw[1]. Together, they created an installation there. The interior of the gallery, walls, shapes, images constructed together the narration, in which the individual works lost their autonomy for the sake of a “common scenery.“ This meeting was surprising for both artists: they began to see in her works common features that included the potential to create increasingly new constellations.

The exhibition “Disturbances of reality” prepared for the Jan Tarasin City Art Gallery of Kalisz constitutes the development of these notions. It is a visual experiment in which abstract forms and shapes are arranged in the gallery space to work like a painting. The painting of Kinga Nowak and Anna Panek is like a living organism, whose reaction and ultimate dimension cannot be foreseen. In a way, the paintings are a process of searching for subsequent paintings. The painting itself does not exist separately and autonomically, it is only an element of a certain narration, which it co-creates. The exhibition “Disturbances of reality” touches upon the essence and matter of abstract painting and language, which it uses. It is interesting that each of the artists starts from a different point, from different assumptions, however, the end-effect is surprising – works are created which share many qualities and which are visually consistent. It is probably due to the fact that both artists relate to the utopian ideas of the avant-garde, in which nature became a new source of inspiration for thinking about the human and the space that surrounds him. A strong need for synchronization of the everyday life with the green landscape initiated new ways of thinking about architecture and art. For both artists, such an approach is linked with the attempt to capture the interrelations and the connections of human‘s coexistence with reality and the transfer of this delicate and complicated matter to the language of painting. The work of both artists is created from a kind of personal alphabet from which they create paintings and installations. it is easy to notice that shapes and forms painted on canvases are part of spatial installations, as if they were “getting out” from the picture. We, the viewers also have the additional pleasure of finding and identifying these motifs. At the exhibition “Disturbances of reality” we also find a lot of strong references to the avant-garde and position of women artists at the time, among others Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Katarzyna Kobro, Hilma af Klint. Especially the latter is a very important reference to both Panek and Nowak. Hilma af Klint’s painting evolved from biomorphic to geometric shapes. As it is already known, Af Klint was well ahead of the experiments of Kandinsky, Mondrian or Malevich. She consciously applied the language of abstract forms to express not only artistic issues or problems but above all philosophical ones. The exhibition “Disturbances of reality” consists of paintings, site-specific installations (plexiglass, wood, metal, fabric), and ceramic objects.

Kinga Nowak’s painting is firmly embedded in the tradition of modernism. She creates images, objects, and larger spatial arrangements. She uses traditional painting materials as well as fabric, wood, metal and ceramics. Nowak has created an original painting language based primarily on geometry. Although her painting uses abstraction, one can clearly sense the spirit of figurative painting. The artist appropriates elements of the achievements of the avant-garde by outright rejecting the political and ideological assumptions of the interwar period. Her geometric version of nonrepresentational art certainly does not conform to Tadeusz Peiper‘s slogan “City, Mass and Machine,“ but rather “Superorganism, Avant-garde and experience of nature”[2] exhibition held at the Museum of Art in Łódź as part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Avant-garde in Poland. Nowak’s works are dense, intense, which makes us perceive them as sensual. The artist uses strong colors, emphasizes lighting. Her painting is characterized by visual sensitivity and image memory. In turn, Panek’s works are very much involved in the sensual and emotional world. Her painterly sensitivity is shaped by the landscape, contact with nature, sensitivity to it and its examination. In her painting we can find organic and vegetable motifs. She is fascinated by the return of a man to the roots, to the original relationship with nature. In Anna Panek’s art certain questions keep returning like a boomerang: what have we gained and what we have lost to create an artificial environment, how much of the primal human remains in us, do what degree our intuitions, abilities to learn through senses allow us to understand the world that we have long left. For Panek, painting (art in general) is a language by means of which one can discover and express reality. Another important aspect of Anna Panek’s painting is femininity combined with the forces of nature, vitality; plant as a woman, the female body and biological processes taking place in it are frequent motifs in her paintings. Panek is not afraid of these references.

Another one of the assumptions of the exhibition “Disturbances of reality” is the reference to the history of the institution in which it is presented and to the person of its patron – Jan Tarasin. Tarasin is an important figure for the artists. Analyzing their work, we can see some analogies regarding the perception of reality and building our own system of signs – the alphabet that describes this reality. The way of seeing, the painting language of Tarasin emerged from the world of objects painted realistically, then it was simplified by the artist, reduced to the creation of a system of abstract or near-abstract signs. In the 1960s, Tarasin wrote: “I am interested in a certain type of subjectivity brought to abstraction. After all, my paintings are panoramic landscapes, interiors and still lifes. I want to paint concrete matters. I want the objects, elements of my paintings to be material and to differ from each other, just like a tree and water are different.”

Although Kinga Nowak‘s painting clearly turned towards abstraction, it is figurative in spirit. In turn, the painting language of Anna Panek is based on abstract forms, and describes the sensual and emotional world on the one hand, while on the other it is very strongly connected with reality. Panek describes her painting language as follows: “there are things that do not have one beginning and one end. They cannot be represented on the chart in a linear way. They develop centrally, grow, then explode. This is not chaos, just an excess of dependence. The image has its own syntax, the structure does not have to refer to knowledge or science; it can draw directly from what moves us. It is more connected with life, primary instincts, nature. Painting does not have to respond directly to ad hoc questions, it is an independent, free creation.” Agata Chinowska


“Quite possible”, Dec. 8, 2017-Feb. 6, 2018, Lokal_30, Warsaw, curator Agnieszka Rayzacher.

 “Superorganism. Avant-garde and experience of nature”, Feb. 10, 2016 – May 21, 2017, Art Museum in Łódź, Feb. 10 – May 21, 2017, curators: Aleksandra Jach, Paulina Kurc-Maj.

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