Jeff Cowen brings his timeless photography to Veneklasen/Werner.
The New York-born, Berlin-based Cowen is a rare and refreshing artist who has no time for intellectualising. Sitting back in his armchair with a cup of Japanese tea and a slice of his own birthday cake, he cries out, “What about the human heart?!”
Prolific from a young age, Cowen’s ever-growing oeuvre is artistically and thematically diverse. Spurred on by a voracious and instinctive urge to create, his work spans portraiture, still life, street photography and collage, whilst incorporating unique elements of sculpture and painting. Using as guidelines the compositional accuracy and detail of such former greats as Cezanne and Rembrandt, Cowen creates arresting and timeless images that offer a whole lot more than aesthetic satisfaction. “Most people who use photography use it to stop time and document something that has happened, and I’m trying to go beyond that. Basically, I’m not interested in an event. It should be about something much deeper and more profound than that – an interior world.”
Though his objective might be abstract and his process accordingly complex, Cowen works to create a paradoxical impression of simplicity whilst capturing this hidden inner world. “I think the missing link between artists then and now is the former’s ability to construct really strong, minimal images. It’s like really good writing. Take Raymond Carver. He takes six words, and it’s like ‘Boom’! They’re not even big words. He just slams you over the head.”
The various prints hung up on the walls of Cowen’s Kreuzberg studio demonstrate just such an ability. “It’s the quality of abstraction. Harmonic forms fitting together organically. Some kind of magic number that just works. It needs to grab you by your heart, your head and your balls.” And there’s nothing intellectual about that.
JEFF COWEN Feb 24-Mar 8 | Veneklasen/Werner, Rudi-Dutschke-Str. 26, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Kochstr., Tue-Sat 11-18
Originally published in issue #124, February 2014.