Natasha Kowalski’s world is a riot of beautiful colour. Kate Dobinson talks to the pattern happy painter about why she’s branching out into fashion.
For Natasha Kowalski, Abu Dhabi is the matrix for her best art. The ‘Inkscapes’ she creates – gorgeous abstract landscapes drawing you into another world – are visual expressions of the Middle Eastern experiences she has encountered since writing a business plan, packing her bags and leaving Australia to pursue her dream. TOAD sits down in the studio to discuss her first fashion line of scarves and kaftans.
What do your inkscapes express to the world?
‘Inkscapes’ is a visual expression of my experiences in the Middle East. My work is stylistically different to traditional Middle Eastern art, I paint abstract landscapes using liquid acrylic inks to create multiple layers in combination with intricate patterns. It’s a sensory experience and a visual journey; I use colour and pattern to connect with the viewer. There’s a science behind my methods.
Are the paintings intended to have a spiritual resonance?
I moved to the Middle East to develop my art and explore the unknown. Immersing myself in a new environment has greatly enriched my artistic style. My paintings are intentionally emotive, however, I wouldn’t classify them as deeply spiritual. There are many definitions of the word spiritual, so I wouldn’t want my works defined by just that word alone.
Could the inkscapes be interpreted as your subconscious mind?
I majored in colour theory and composition at art school (I’m a traditionally trained artist) and have a master’s degree in design science. My art is very much based on colour theory. The abstract Russian art theorist Kandinsky and his essays have been an especially strong influence. Colour greatly influences human emotions, especially when used in certain combinations, which is how I engage my audience. The viewer gains a personal experience and has a unique connection with each composition.
Was it a natural leap to create a fashion line? Tell us about your new line of beautiful scarves.
I’m obsessed with fashion, so it was a natural progression to extend my art into wearable material. I want people to enjoy my art everyday as a statement piece. My scarves combine vibrant colour combinations on high quality silk. They will never be mass produced. I’m in the process of creating my new line of scarves and kaftans and these will be available soon. My current range is available online via my website www.natashakowalski.com.
How did you decide what would be in your debut collection when you first moved to Abu Dhabi
A majority of pieces were created after I moved here but I did bring a collection from home. I remember being at the airport checking in my art as oversized luggage and the staff requested to see my work (out of curiosity). On reflection it was very funny, I pulled out every piece in front of a random crowd and had to make an impromptu speech. It was the first time I felt like a real artist.
Which piece of artwork are you most proud of?
The first significant painting I produced in Abu Dhabi was a commissioned piece. It’s titled Inkscape#1 and is my favourite so far. It was a beautiful moment when the client sent me a picture of it hung in her living room. Bringing joy to a client is priceless for me and inspires me to paint more. I often write a message on the back of every painting; it’s a short description of what, or who, inspired me. For example, in a recent painting of mine I wrote: ‘I wasn’t sure what I thought of you so I thought I should paint it.’ It’s a secret puzzle for the owner of the piece.
On your blog you say, ‘I did it!’ – You sound somewhat surprised? What did it take to leave your corporate job behind and become a full time artist?
It was crucial to design a structured business plan with check points. My business plan was focused on being an entrepreneur and estimating my value as a brand. The decision to leave was fast. I literally quit my job, packed up, activated business mode and moved countries in five weeks. There were certainly times when I wondered if I was a little crazy. Perhaps a little crazy is a good thing?
Do you ever experience a mind block when creating and how do you move past it?
Mind block is inevitable for everyone. I believe these black spaces are more important than the creation itself. Taking time to reflect can lead to a whole new art series. Enjoy the blanks and don’t criticise yourself for them. The art will return, have faith in your artist within.
Do you take inspiration from any particular fashion designers or other artists?
I’m actually more inspired by entrepreneurs and business strategy. One of my favourite books is Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be. My favourite quote from that book is: ‘Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. Without having a goal it’s difficult to score.’
To browse Natasha’s fashion line, visit www.natashakowalski.com Follow her on Instagram @natashadidit.