Art Reflecting Life

Damon Kowarsky studied printmaking at Victorian College of the Arts and Glasgow School of Art, and Advanced Figure Drawing with Godwin Bradbeer at RMIT. Since graduating he has travelled extensively in South Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Architecture and the colours of earth and sky inspire much of his work. Kowarsky is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including Toyota Community Spirit Artist Travel Award, Australian Print Workshop Collie Print Trust Emerging Victorian Printmakers Scholarship, Creative Victoria New Works Grant and Australia Council Asia-Australia Creative Partnerships Grant. Kowarsky exhibits regularly in Australia and abroad, holding solo exhibitions in cities including Melbourne, Hong Kong, New York, Philadelphia, Wellington, Cairo, Damascus, Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. He is currently working on a series of etchings inspired by recent travels in India, Oman, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  Abhijit Ganguly speaks to Damon Kowarsky.

You started out as a classical musician. What made you swap your tuba for a pencil and paper?
I hadn't begun traveling when I was playing music. But, looking back, and in light of how much I have traveled over the years, I probably realized that traveling with a tuba was completely impractical. Whereas, with pencil and paper you can pretty much go anywhere and record the world around you...which is something I've been doing now for quite a while.   

Do you see yourself primarily as an artist or a printmaker?

I was trained as a print maker which means I worked mainly with etchings of copper plates.  I work in a studio that's a print studio.  I do consider myself a print maker of course I am an artist but print making is my medium so generally, I talk about myself as a print maker.   

Is printmaking more or less popular than some other art forms?

Print making has a slightly different function to other forms of art.  It's both very portable and practical in that it exists in its editions so that there are multiple copies of each artwork.  Which means that it's easy to transport and easy to share with people.  So, whereas a painting or a sculpture generally will only exist in a single place and is often quite cumbersome to move around, a print can be rolled in a tube and shipped anywhere.  Which, in light of how much I travel and the exhibitions I have held around the world, this makes it extremely useful. 

As an artist, what inspires you in your artwork?

I get inspiration by looking at the world around me and taking the time to draw the things I see.   So a lot of my work is concerned with architecture and people.  I spend a lot of time sitting and drawing the people and the buildings that I see.  Because in every place those things are different and they give me a lot of ideas for my work. 

Damon with honorary consul for Pakistan Melbourne Ms Ayesha Bux
It’s obvious you have travelled a lot. Where has been your favourite place to sketch and why?

I have traveled a lot and there have been many places that I'd love to visit.  Of course, India is fantastic but most recently I was in the west of France, the region called Britanny.  It's extremely beautiful, it's a rural area so everything's got lots of greenery, trees, fields, rolling hills, beautiful little old houses.  And that was absolutely wonderful spending 3 months drawing there. 

It was in 1997 when you first visited Pakistan. How has the art market changed since then? 

The art market, in Pakistan has developed quite considerably since 1997.  Since then the country open up to quite a lot of international exposure as the artist's there receive the recognition they deserve, and also with changes to the world – mainly through the internet and social media – it's meant that art is accessible from many places and to many places. 

Many of your activities are realized in collaboration with other partners. How important are collaborations for you? 

Collaboration is very important as it allows me to get new and different ideas, both from my work and the other artists I work with.  I find, each time I collaborate, I learn something new about making art and my work changes...often in ways I wouldn't have been able to predict.  So, there are two driving forces behind my art.  The first is the travel which exposes me to so many new things, people, places and ideas.  And also to the collaboration which is a way of getting some of those ideas and generally having a lot of fun, too.   

In an age of digital imagery and mass media,  do you think original prints are still important?

I think original prints are even more important in the digital age.  Digital reproduction has made producing original images so easy but the surface of a digital print has uniformity.  It's made by a machine.  It has flatness.  Whereas, when you produce a print by hand, it's much richer.  And, I think, with the ubiquity of digital images -or not just digital images, it could be with machine-made anything whether it's clothes or food or art – the things that are made by hand are so much more distinctive and people respond to them because they have that presence of “craft” in them.  

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