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Interview Norti Art: Part of the grand total

19 October - 2020
by Alice Broeksma

For a considerable amount of time photography was the most important art form used by Amsterdam-based Norti Kowalski. A way to register, and cherish, a moment of beauty before its demise. One of her photo series is named ‘Frozen in time/flowers on ice’: beautiful flower compositions, the photo taken as a near-abstract, or a lavish still life, like the canvas of an old master. Now Norti is painting again. This time not to cling to a memory, but to let go and setting free the image -and life. The Dutch artist has been inspired by Robert Longo, Anselm Kiefer, Hilma af Klint, Georgia O’Keeffe and Barnett Newman. But her own work is not connected to a specific movement. Her paintings are intuitive abstracts, with vigorous colours and shapes revealing the very core of being, the longing for freedom, yet connected to all that surrounds us. The work has been exhibited in Amsterdam under the artist’s name Nortiart. 

Door de deur / Transformatie
Door de deur / Transformatie

- When did art begin for you, and how has it developed?

When I was very young creating gave me a grip and a focus. With my pocket money I bought sketchbooks and started to draw. Pencil, ink, already trying out various materials. Looking back, I can see I was hiding from reality in a world I did not really understand. I lost my mother when I was nine and did not quite know where I belonged. A small child in a big world. I liked reading sci-fi stories and fairy tales, about worlds with so many other possibilities. It was a search for what our place is in this life. It became a lasting theme in my later work: questioning where you belong, dealing with dualism, the difficulty choosing between turning right or left, the smallness of man in the universe, yet as a part of the grand total and of nature. The latter everybody now acknowledges because of covid.. The pandemic is visible in my painting. The images are spatial, with darks shapes but also colour and light. Colour is important to me. It stands for warmth, energy and strength. Colour comes from deep within me. It is also a message in these times: keep seeing the colour and light.   

A Wedding day
A Wedding day

- What about your photography?

This came alongside my earlier painting. I had my own dark room and printed in black and white. Later, studying social sciences, I often used photography to illustrate projects. It became an interesting and creative way to connect ideas. I followed a course in mixed media, also in Adobe Photoshop and joined an art collective in Amsterdam, where my work was permanently exhibited. I worked with models, taught art to youngsters and judged photo-competitions for young people. All this consumed my time, and I painted less. Which is something I have adjusted now. 

Twee werelden
Twee werelden

- How do you work?

I paint every day in my studio apartment in Amsterdam, which has large windows, high ceilings and a small garden. And a big table with my paint and utensils. The moment I get up I can start working. At this moment small size -A3 and A4- and not only with pencil, but also using my hands on the canvas or paper. I always use acrylic because it dries rapidly, so you can continue working. I often make the paint run under a tap. The effect can be very surprising and exciting, the work ‘flows’ in more than one sense. I continue working on this, with ink, creating rough and smooth effects with lines as a contrast. Or I create a shape, with a colour that feels right for me. Usually a title will present itself - at first sight spontaneously, but it shows me what the underlying theme is. ‘Fly away’ for instance is about wanting to escape the restrictions during the pandemic, and ‘A special place’ is about the source of life. For my photography I freeze flowers, just before the moment they will decay, and shoot them against light. When I work I listen to music, or the birds in my garden.

Fly a way

- What is ‘art’ for you?

It is a passion I can’t live without. A challenge, an energy source and liberation. When I paint I feel in balance. It helps to get closer to the essence of who you really are. Often by peeling away layers, as with an onion – still searching for the ‘middle point’ where there is silence but also entirety. This search will never end. Creating an image from chaos, and the ability to show others, is what it is all about for me as an artist.


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