Brigitte Kowanz

Biography of Brigitte Kowanz

Light is at the core of internationally acclaimed Austrian artist Brigitte Kowanz’s ouevre. It is both a key conceptual theme in her work and a valuable medium. Kowanz has been revolutionizing the role of light in art for almost half a century, centered around an intrinsic fascination with how people perceive and respond to their surroundings, and the ability light has to shape and shift reality.


Brigitte Kowanz’s earliest artistic investigations involved the use of phosphorescent and fluorescent pigments on flat surfaces, which rapidly evolved into her creation of three-dimensional “light objects”. Mirroring then became an equally important vehicle, allowing for the virtual transformation and expansion of space to force an audience to grapple with intangible realities. In recent years, Kowanz has been incorporating text into her works through LED tubing, addressing the power of language in defining our understanding of what we see. Besides using Latin script, Kowanz employs the non-linear codified language of morse code.


As the representative of Austria at the Venice Biennale in 2017 along with Erwin Wurm, Brigitte Kowanz created a complex installation that can be considered the culmination of all of her practices. The exhibition Infinity and Beyond is populated with mirrors, neon, writing, and code that manipulate the physical space of the pavilion. Light in this context serves to reproduce and disseminate ideas and create new possibilities, rather than to illuminate or enhance pre-existing matter.


Given the importance of the idea of reality going beyond a single view or image, creating multiples is a large part of Brigitte Kowanz’s practice. Editioned neons take on multiple states of being in their various presentations, altered by the surroundings they are placed in.


Brigitte Kowanz (b. 1957) lives in Vienna, where she is professor of Transmedial Art at the University of Applied Arts. She has been featured in several major international exhibitions, including at the Hayward Gallery in London, MACRO in Rome, Lenbachhaus in Munich, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Modern Art Museum in Salzburg. Amongst the notable public institutions that house Kowanz’s work are the Deutsche Bank Collection, the ARCO Foundation collection, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Venezuela and the Munich Re Art Collection. 

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