Paulina Olowska receives Aachen Art Prize

Paulina Olowska receives Aachen Art Prize

Ludwig Forum Aachen

Paulina Olowska, Koniec/The End, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery, London & Hong Kong.

May 28, 2015

Paulina Olowska

Aachen Art Prize 2014
May 31–September 20, 2015

Opening and award ceremony: May 31, noon

Ludwig Forum Aachen
Jülicher Straße 97-109
52070 Aachen

Paulina Olowska is the Aachen Art Prize recipient for 2014. On the occasion of this award she will present a site-specific exhibition at the Ludwig Forum for Internationale Kunst in the summer of 2015. 

In her work, Olowska mines various sources—looking to figures of feminism, popular aesthetics, fashion vernacular, political propaganda, advertising, display and signage—to animate different attitudes about history and its present resonances. 

Exploring particular ideas about production, both industrial and artistic, her exhibition Needle/Nadel addresses the fragmented processes by which an artwork comes to be. Olowska combines disparate sources, merging found material, applied arts, and cast-off or recycled elements from factory production together within her own painting and sculpture. Culling from high and low materiality, sculptures may juxtapose marble, metal and pieces of 1960s tapestry, alongside industrial plastic waste, elements from tailoring and hand-made ceramics. Cut and woven, the most variable materials build on traditional techniques to forge new structures and compositions. In its two exhibition spaces, the show articulates an interplay between positive and negative, showing the gaps and by-products of artworks in formation, and the meanings that can emerge from an idea of absence as well as presence.

Olowska has paid specific attention to the history of the Ludwig Forum building. Built in 1928 in the so-called International Style, Ludwig Forum was once the site of the world’s largest umbrella factory, where industrial production took place until 1988. Its central manufacturing hall was filled with working women, enacting ritualized motions on sewing machines and using needles and fabrics to create the modern umbrella. Since the early 1990s the building has been a space of art appreciation as well as art production. Alongside specially chosen earlier works, Paulina Olowska presents pieces created specifically for the exhibition, which evoke this factory history. 

In this lingering industrial context, which is associated with textile and metal industries, particularly in Aachen, Olowska’s work negotiates ideas about craft, labor and the fragile moment of an artwork’s creation. Interwoven throughout is the figure of an artist as a worker herself. The title Needle/Nadel hints at something subversive, with the English word “needle” meaning not only the tool and the handicraft activity of sewing but also a provocative verbal teasing. In this way, a needle is simultaneously tool and weapon, something sharp in its material impact as well as in its emotional impact. Implied throughout the exhibition, as well as in this title, is the sense that within the space of production various narratives can emerge, injecting the industrial with the personal and the emotional. 

This exhibition develops further the emblematic themes that have long preoccupied Olowska’s work: a gendered history, the potency of fashion, and critical nostalgia which addresses the ambitions, successes and failures of bygone eras while simultaneously revealing their impact in the present.

Save the date:
Eric Baudelaire, September 20–November 22
Tim Berresheim, October 25, 2015–January 10, 2016

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May 28, 2015

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