Andrzej Nowicki: Works on Paper

David Krut Publishing: Fine Art & Books is happy to introduce Works on Paper by Andrzej Nowicki who recently completed his MFA studies at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town where he was awarded the Irma Stern Scholarship 2005-2007. Group exhibitions have included New Work by Michaelis Masters Students, Michaelis Gallery, Cape Town, 2007; All Creatures Great and Small, What if the World, Cape Town, 2006 ; Glimpse, Centre for African Studies Gallery, University of Cape Town, 2006; and Absolut Finale, Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, 2005.

“The world I paint has no future. It is a self-contained place without apparent movement. Yet on closer scrutiny, movement of a sort can be perceived. A receding pull from the past, to the past. This pull stems from the exploration of the old roads, an attempt to discover among these paths that which has been forgotten or overlooked. Strangely, when discovered, the relics that inspire my world carry with them qualities that resonate with the uncertainty we usually associate with the future; their unfamiliarity stems from their connection with a now distant world.

From the current moment, the future may be a distant place, but when Theodore Nelson stated that ‘the future is not what it used to be’ (Rosenberg & Harding 2004:59), he acknowledges that the future has its own history. Various writers of fiction, scientists, and futurists have attempted to give a form to the future. Each one is influenced by the ideologies of their own time. Thus, to look at the future means also to look at the past. Fictional futures are more descriptive of the ‘then’ present than they are indicative of times to come. For example, George Orwell’s 1984, written in 1949, describes a dystopia that can be understood as an expression of his concerns about the political situation at the time of his writing. Science fiction writing has presented us with myriad definitions for this concept: dreams of utopias and dread of cataclysm.

In terms of my personal experience, the ‘final moment’, where the future ceases to facilitate a strand of possibilities, is situated in the experience of my leaving Poland when I was nine years old. As an artist I continually return to this point, and from it I look back at my past, not from the viewpoint of the child about to leave, but from that of the adult returning, remembering his expectations of what would come next. This return allows me to engage my past with the answer to the questions I had then. It allows me to engage with my past from a different perspective.

My aim is to describe the distance between the person I am now and the child I was then. There are cultural and political shifts that would seem to have shaped this development: the physical move from Poland to South Africa, from Communism to a (now) democratic environment. However, my investigation focuses on more personal changes. An anchoring point for my practice is my relationship to the comic book medium. As a child I found American comic books to be totally alien. Not only did they come from a different ideological background, but they were of a different visual tradition from the comics I had grown up with in Poland.

My initial experience of American comics was when my father sent them to me from England, while my mother and I were still in Poland. The comics he sent me differed vastly from their Polish equivalents in both style and content. The strangeness of these comics fueled my obsession with finding out what they meant. The difference between comics from the western world and the eastern bloc, when analysed from a distance, can be variously interpreted on different levels. My interpretation was idiosyncratic because it was shaped by the particularities of my own experience. My first experience of them was as an outsider, unable to read the comics and forced to interpret them from the order of pictures. Many of my interpretations, I only discovered later, were wrong. Consequently my later experience is that of someone adjusting for the wrong interpretations of the first encounter. In terms of my work I seek a middle ground where both experiences play a vital role. These American comics have to me become a symbol of the future; when I was still in Poland they were pieces of the place I was going to.

The term I use to contextualise my own work in this thesis, is ‘gloaming’. The gloaming is the moment following the sunset; it is a pause between the end of the day and the beginning of night. I see this as a moment where time hesitates and the future and past are equally distanced, both equally unfamiliar. In this moment there is a pause; the progressive day-to-day rhythm stops and waits. As such, a viewer from within the gloaming looks to two places, the future and the past, from the viewpoint of the present. I try to bring this duality to my pictures by being aware of the potential of both the future and the past. The audience is presented with an image from which they can imagine a further narrative, both preceding the moment depicted in the image, and following it. My work is like a new chapter that has been secretly added in among the chapters of an old book describing the future. My chapter follows the logic of the old text but is shaped by the very knowledge that the old text tried to predict. I do not want my addition to stand out and, accordingly, I disguise it so that it will follow the style of the original. I intentionally insert outlandish perspectives and rely on aesthetics that position my addition my addition as part of the past.”
(Andrzej Nowicki 2007)