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Oliver Schwarzwald and Nawwar Shukriah Ali: On Circles and Katharsis

Welcome to this mini exhibition 😆  Six works from two artists, Hamburg-based Oliver Schwarzwald, and Nawwar Shukriah Ali, from Kuala Lumpur. 

So how did this come about? Honestly, it's not because we were actively searching for artists working with funky acrylic shapes in nature 😂

One of the brilliant things about being an online platform is that we're open to artists from all over the world. We're not just restricted to local artists like some physical spaces. It means we have the joy of discovering two artists that seem on the surface very different, but who are exploring similar themes or using similar processes, and putting them together.  Oliver sent me his On Circles series several months ago - an experimental project he was enjoying working on in his spare time. A few months later, Nawwar sent Liezel her Katharsis series. Both emails were just a "hey this is what I've been up to" type communication, neither artist thought we'd do anything with them. 

Something clicked with me. The magic of two artists, from across the globe, who have never heard of each other, crafting acrylic shapes, then photographing them, to express something that concerns them personally - it's incredible, right? Even twenty years ago, they'd have worked away in entirely separate silos, and now their work can be brought together in dialogue with each other. They can enrich each other.

What I loved the most is how the playfulness of Nawwar's series and the delicacy of Oliver's work interact. One illuminates the other, and together they become even more special. Every time I look at their works situated next to each other, I smile. 

I thought I'd ask both artists about their inspiration and process, to illustrate this dialogue a little bit more. We hope you enjoy this selection. Artworks can also be sold framed, or specially mounted. We want to make it easy for you to have this beautiful art in your home! 

As always, we're here for a conversation -

- Kitty


Nawwar: These photographs are a part of my Katharsis series, so the inspiration came from self reflections at the beach. It's a part of a cleansing ritual that I usually do; a healing ritual for me at the beach every time, where I reflect on life, life around me at the present moment. I go for a dip to clean myself and let go of things that weigh me down.

Oliver: I started working on this series in 2017 when the issue of plastic in the world's oceans really took off. I thought about how I could approach this topic in a slightly less obvious way. Straws on the beach, for example, were pictured in the mainstream media, but plastic is actually found everywhere in nature in the form of unseen micro-particles. I wanted to create something subtle and ethereal that, at first glance, actually has nothing in common with the subject matter. 

I then decided to use acrylic glass panes, and stage them in nature. The material looks high-quality and has nothing to do with plastic waste, but it is in fact also plastic. I ordered the objects from my acrylic glass craftsman; the colour has to be strong to stand out well. 


Nawwar: I always bring my acrylic pieces wherever I travel. These photographs were taken in different beaches around the world. They act as a reminder that the world is big enough compared to my little problems, that I need to let go of them. The world has a lot more to offer to me. This work is always about the compositions of the coloured acrylics, shadow play or the reflections of the sky or the ocean behind me, framed within the mirrors.

Oliver: The first part of the series was made in Sweden. Originally I wanted to go to the sea with the circles I had made. But before that we decided to take a holiday in Sweden, and I took the circles with me. I saw that the natural landscape there offered exactly what I was looking for, and that’s how the work began.

The pictures in the studio are a consequence of the reduction to the theme of plastic and nature. By staging them with flowers, I wanted to create images that are modern and reduced but also have romantic elements. Like the picture with the sky in the background. Here, too, the basic theme is to be treated subliminally and, at best, only referred to by a reference text, because in nature, a large part of the wasteful use of plastics is not visible at first glance.