Rita Nowak

Selected works


Rita Nowak

Rita Nowak is an established Austrian artist working with staged photography. Her approach is painterly, occasionally referencing old masters such as Bosch, Goya and Manet. A strong sense of visual metaphor runs through her work, and the mise-en-scène and symbolism are often authentically linked to those depicted, many of whom are artists themselves.


Rita Nowak was born in Wels, Austria in 1979 and currently lives in London. She studied fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, master class for photography.


She has received several grants and awards and her work has been shown internationally at art fairs (Paris Photo, Art Cologne), in galleries and museums.


Solo exhibitions have taken place at the following locations: Galerie Konzett, Vienna; Smolka Contemporary, Vienna; Knight / Zamet, London; Matthew Bown Gallery Berlin, Marcus Ritter Gallery, Leipzig; Nexus art gallery, Saalfelden; Picture Gallery Vienna.

About the work


In the mirror of photography, the moment appears as a crystal, crystalline the gaze that peers through the passing by, through the transitoriness in search of the transparency of a certain time: what shines back in this reflection was always intended for capturing a moment and for holding on to a moment. What becomes discernible is not that which is ‘found’, taken into the picture and denied its passing; what reveals itself is contemplative, the pictorial expression of a remembrance of some other time that only occasionally coincides with the present. Offering itself when looking at the present picture is the appearance of the occasional, as indefinite in nature as the memory that only springs to mind all of a sudden, spontaneously and unannounced like a guest at the door of the forgotten, as indefinite as the fringes of a daydream for the team of opened eyes. The occasional protects the moment from historicization as well as from calculation, the assessment already assigning itself to the tomorrow, already replacing silent marvelling. Presenting itself is always the picture of a moment that was painted by stage directions, utilising the play of light placements and the darkening of shadows, rendering the eyes lost for words. Within this nocturnal setting, language is merely left with suppressed knowledge, a premonition communicating from the dark. One is left in obscurity as to why, even so, the gestures communicate through certain gazes and poses: they take place, occur, occasionally, from picture to picture, which defies serialisation, defies abstraction. Here, nothing is found, nothing stolen from time. The gap between the transgression of a rule, and its counterpart in the dress of transitoriness, closes that which one might perhaps liken to a furtive glance: a glance that ascertains that one’s own gaze will only be visible as partially covert – as a glance that is withdrawn open-eyed, merely assigned and presented as an accomplice for a kept secret.


It is this furtive glance that the eye of the camera presents to the moments that approach it as a witness to testify that there will be no recurrence of what has just occurred, to testify to the impossibility of any recurrence that would threaten the occasional singularity of the moment. In this respect Rita Nowak’s photography is linked to painting, each picture less a photograph than a canvas: echoes of this practice are found in some of her works that reflect a history of painting, that approach the original paintings in pantomime via the photographic picture – less by adopting any particular motif but by adopting the responsibility previously attributed to painting: to recognise, in the application of colours and lines, the assignment of confronting found pictures with others that need to be discovered and created. In this sense, none of Rita Nowak’s pictures meet the criteria of a depiction. Her pictures turn away from depiction in order to discover the particular moment only in view of the picture and within the picture itself. What then comes into view is an iridescence of time, a chromaticism of chronicity, which above all becomes evident in the pictures toying with the equilibrium, the balance between the tenable and the untenable. The picture is intended for the ban, for banishing the moment that is denied its passing, furtively staged for the picture in order to never leave it again. This is only accomplished since the moment already inherently holds the quality of a picture. Already casting furtive glances from the occasional is the picture, or at least the coordinates and stage props for a picture, which has yet to be taken, still needs to develop into a picture. In the mirror of Rita Nowak’s photography, reality itself appears as a waiting room for moments that are waiting for the occasion to occasionally meet someone’s eyes.


Andreas Spiegl 2015

Exhibitions at Smolka Contemporary

Rita Nowak

Manfred Wakolbinger Smolka Contemporary Foto Wien


Foto Wien: Alienated
Art Vienna 2022 Smolka Contemporary


Alois Mosbacher Thomas Stimm Smolka Contemporary


Summer Exhibition
Rita Nowak Smolka Contemporary Print


Smolka Contemporary Vienna Contemporary 2018


Vienna Contemporary 2018


Rita Nowak