Piotr Kowalski (1927–2004) embodies the figure of the artist as research scientist and inventor—a tradition dating back to Leonardo da Vinci.
Born in Warsaw, Kowalski studied mathematics and architecture at MIT in Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA) and moved to France in the late 1950s. He practiced first as an architect, notably with Ieoh Ming Pei, Marcel Breuer, and Jean Prouvé, before turning to art and developing a corpus of sculptural work based on scientific principles.
For Kowalski, the practice of art cannot be purely aesthetic: art is an urgent necessity, an expression of social activism. Kowalski uses state-of-the-art and everyday technology like a painter uses colour, to “transform the world and produce objects,” but never as an end in itself—always as a stimulus to the imagination. He strives to make the laws of physics perceptible, using poetic means, everyday language and contemporary tools.