Parafin is delighted to present a solo exhibition with Tania Kovats, her second with the gallery. Kovats makes drawings, sculpture, installations and large-scale time-based projects that explore our experience and understanding of the natural world. While she is perhaps best known for her sculptures and drawings, her work encompasses a range of creative strategies, from map-making to writing, and she is also active as a curator, teacher and author. Kovats‘ enduring themes are the experience and understanding of landscape, geological processes, patterns of growth and the intersection of landscape, nature and culture and how art can speak to our critical climate crisis.
For ‘as above so below’ Kovats focusses on drawing, which has a central role in her practice. Indeed, Kovats is a prominent advocate for its importance as a creative and reflective medium. She has written two acclaimed books on the subject, The Drawing Book (2006) and Drawing Water (2014) and says: ‘I make drawings more than I draw drawings. If I couldn’t draw then I couldn’t think. And I couldn’t dream. Drawing is where I come home to; and where I can communicate best, first with myself, then with others.’
In the ground floor gallery, Kovats exhibits new works from her ongoing series of Sea Marks, meditative drawings depicting expansive seascapes made with simple, repeated brushstrokes that travel towards the horizon; Kovats has said ‘the horizon line between sea and sky is my favourite line’. Alongside works on paper are three new works made with cobalt blue glazes on ceramic tiles. They are contrasted with two older works, All the Islands of All the Seas (2016) and All the Islands of The Arctic Circle (2014). Islands continue to appear as important allegorical landscapes in Kovats’ work with three new drawings entitled Passage (2023). These latter works were made during a recent Cape Farewell expedition to the Marshall Islands to examine the effects of climate change. The drawings were created by suspending a pen above the paper. As the ship moved with the swell of the Pacific Ocean, the pen swung across the sheet, so that one could say that the drawings were actually made by the sea. The sea flows through all these works and has long been a thematic preoccupation for Kovats.
The exhibition also includes a new group of drawings relating to the phases of the moon. Full Moon (2023) is a multi-part drawing recording all the full moons in a year (in 2023 there are 13); Wolf Moon, Worm Moon, Hunter’s Moon, Pink Moon etc. plus a Blue Moon. We are reminded that the moon dictates the planet’s tides and forms a primal or elemental rhythm. Kovats’ work is often concerned with the passing of time.
Shown downstairs, Luna (2023), is a 28-part drawing depicting the phases of the moon across a lunar month. Yet while much of the work in the exhibition celebrates and fosters a sense of bliss and connectivity with the natural world, a group of works in the lower gallery evoke a sense of loss and melancholy; the necessary balance and interconnection between these states is alluded to in the title of the show, ‘as above so below’. An installation of a line of old school shoes becomes a tender memorial to the artist’s son’s childhood, now that he has left home, and explores how growth houses loss, and is built into the child’s progress towards individualisation.
Sicily (2016-23) documents the unnamed but numbered graves of 20 individual migrants who lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Lampedusa. The Last of My Summer Blooms (2023), made with Dahlia flowers from the artist’s garden, evokes not only the inevitable decay in nature and the passing of the seasons, but the passing of Kovats’ own fertility, as she enters the menopause. She writes:
‘The natural dyes of the blooms are released and stain the paper, while the petals merge with the fibres of the paper. As they dry they are fixed as these beautiful ghost flowers, quiet memorials to the sweet joys and melancholy of late summer. I started to make these works as I became postmenopausal. The works mark the end of my body’s fertility and my menstrual cycle stopping; a clock that has been keeping regular time since I was ten years old.’
Download Press Release
Tania Kovats (b.1966, Brighton) studied at Newcastle Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art. Notable recent solo exhibitions include ‘Oceanic’, Parafin (2021), ‘Head To Mouth’, Berwick Gymnasium (2019), ‘Troubled Waters’, Phoenix Gallery, Exeter (2019), ‘Evaporation’, Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester (2016), ‘Oceans’, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2014). Important recent group exhibitions include ‘Sussex Landscape: Chalk, Wood, Water’, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2022), ‘UnNatural History’ (curated by Invisible Dust), Herbert Museum & Art Gallery, Coventry (2021), ‘Future Knowledge’, Modern Art Oxford (2018), ‘Women Power Protest’, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (2018) and ‘Vita Vitale’, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2015). In 1991 she was awarded the Barclays Young Artist Award at the Serpentine Gallery, London. In 2015 she was nominated for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women at the Whitechapel Gallery.
Kovats’ work is held in numerous public and private collections including the Arts Council Collection, London, British Council, London, National Maritime Museum, London, Government Art Collection, London, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven and the Speed Museum, Kentucky. Public artworks are permanently installed at the Natural History Museum, London, Government Art Collection at Admiralty House, London, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh and the Barbraham Research Campus in Cambridge.
Kovats is currently Professor of Drawing and Making at DJCAD, University of Dundee.