Marlon Kowalski

illex welcomes German photographer Marlon Kowalski.

Please enjoy his work and his interview :)


2010, from the series “ Projections "

Daylight Green


In your photo “Watch,” there is a fascinating contrast between the clock and the bed of pinecones. Topics that come to mind are color, texture, depth, movement, time, sound. Please tell us more about any or all of these.

Any references to physical properties are not totally random in these pictures. I do that not intellectually-motivated but basically emotionally. This means that I don’t build a theory about “time” or “temperature” or “color” and then construct pictures according to those concepts. I rather play with them as synonyms or virtual elements and then try to just catch the moment when an interesting result seems possible to me. That random or “snapshot” factor is highly important; it guarantees results that deviate from a pure scientific logic that would otherwise be very boring to me.

I think that playing with physical entities like “form”, “structure”, “depth”, “light” is a general theme in picture taking or painting. More or less, photographs or paintings are always trying to give an idea of how our senses transfer picture elements into (would-be) reality. Pictures are never real, no one will object to that. But humans always try to interpret them as real. This rule even applies to (would-be) totally abstract pictures. Observers always search for depth, light, dimensionality in abstract paintings or pictures. In photography specifically, it is a special feature that photographs always and constitutionally do reflect reality; they result directly from physical and chemical reactions of what reality is. Without the tension between the interpretational search for real aspects and those separate photographic elements that alter that interpretation and that perception, pictures aren’t interesting as art. they might work only as documentary. And documentary is not what I personally look after. In other words, I value ambiguity in photography. I look for this kind of interpretive tension, looking to understand how the interaction between (would-be) reality and (would-be) mind is operating.

Your series “Projections” includes a photograph of a human image projected onto the needles of a pine tree. The interpretation of the face’s expression could support a range of possibilities, from frightened to contemplative to regal. What does this face mean to you?

This is a good example for what I mentioned above. This face or what it expresses is sort of random, full of tension, and far from being unambiguous. It’s very fun for me to decode it in the way you actually did. I definitely chose a version of that photograph that is lively and allows for the most interpretive possibilities for the viewer. In combination with the (random) optical deconstruction via the wooded background, the photograph provides room for different thoughts about the facial expression but also about the folding and coding of space, ideas that are general guiding principles in photography.

The ancient Greeks admired the geometric beauty of the rectangle. Your photograph “Daylight Green” is composed of a rectangle that is itself composed of three squares. How does geometry factor into this photograph’s creation and meaning?

“Geometry” might be a misleading concept here. Within the “geometrical” elements of this picture, within the squares, there is also some really complex structured image information. You will notice that this painted green area is not really homogenous and immaculate, as painted areas never are. The geometry of a picture is defined only by its frame. Most pictures have rectangles or even squares as outer barriers and all the picture information lies within those borders. So, references to geometry are not a search for harmony or beauty in my photographs. They are an attempt to escape from the pure flatness of pictures, from the uniformity of empty spaces, from the deadly dullness of documentary views.

You explore notions of shape, color, and contrast further in your photograph, “Geometry.” Tell us what inspired you to create each photograph and to finally join them together.

This photograph represents an attempt to direct the viewer’s thoughts and feelings: geometrical elements in a picture are probably more about what is in your mind than what is in reality. Both of these pictures have geometric elements in them that appear to have some sort of motion. But in both pictures, these elements are only geometric. If the viewer considers the flatness of the picture’s surface—and the viewer in fact might not consider that—then the viewer will see what is especially applicable to these two photographs. Viewers might look at these two photographs as deep, not as flat. This ambiguous and anarchic aspect is (hopefully) entertaining and thought-provoking for the viewer in that same way that it’s fun and weird for me.

Please visit Marlon’s website and Flickr for more.

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