Nicolai Howalt (b. 1970) is a Danish artist, whose photographic work spans across documentary, conceptual and installatory art. In his practice he works with dualities, connections and temporality as central aspects.
In Howalt’s earlier works mortality has been predominant, as part of an ongoing investigation of life and its fragility. The works are characterized by the absence of a decisive moment, focusing instead on the quiet aftermath in situations devoid of any narrative cues. His work is now distinguished by a unique materiality, initiated by chemical processes, where the temporal sense of both photography and existence is laid bare. Howalt’s work challenges the boundaries of the photographic medium, by reinventing traditional techniques. This encounter between chemistry, science and artistic investigation become reminiscent of alchemistic tradition as well as an exploration of fragility and the state of constant change.
Nicolai Howalt graduated from Denmark’s renowned photographic art school, Fatamorgana, in 1992. He is the recipient of honorary grants from a number of benefactors and institutions, such as the Hasselblad Foundation, the Danish Ministry of Culture, the Danish Arts Foundation and the Danish Arts Council.
Light Break is a documentary and aesthetic encounter between photography, history, science and art. Nicolai Howalt's methods and experiments reflect a fundamental interest in photography and light as material, letting the light become the subject matter.
Light Break takes, as its point of departure, the historical practice of medical phototherapy, which doctor and Nobel laureate Niels Ryberg Finsen (1860-1904) developed and practiced in Denmark at the end of the nineteenth century.
Howalt investigates and visualizes visible and invisible areas of the light spectrum, and the power of the life-giving as well as destructive radiation of sunlight.
Inspired by Finsen’s method, and by making use of Finsen's original coloured filters and lenses as well as contemporary colored filters, Howalt was able to absorb selected areas of light from the sun, allowing the remaining areas of the electromagnetic spectrum to pass through Finsen's original rock crystal lenses onto photosensitive paper (C-print). This unique method of light exposure resulted in a series of original imprints created by the sunrays passing through unhindered, directly from the sun and onto the paper. A universe unfolded, depicting the raw impressions of the sun and of light itself.