Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Matt Trahan and Steven Brekelmans

Only a few classes left this term. Pretty soon I'll be knee deep in my own work . . . hopefully I've learned a little something in the past few months :) With all these established artists coming to talk to our class, I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the multitude of approaches and directions. This is why I thought it very refreshing to have two grad students from the UVic Visual Arts Masters program. I was interested to hear what a couple of contemporary art "noobs" (in relation to the other artist who have multiple decade careers) had to say.
Matt Trahan's work is primarily focused on drawing. When he entered art school, he was already an accomplished drawer but he received heavy criticism for relying on photorealism. In frustration, he did away with the image and began a large-scale drawing of tiny loops. Repetitive mark making seems to be one of the hallmarks of contemporary drawing. This approach is meant to question the relative validity of the mark: what makes an apple shaped mark more meaningful than a rythmic texture of tiny loops? This is an excellent way of questioning also the figure-ground relationship that is so very important in drawing. I'm a little skeptical about this approach, but i can see it's important to clear away you're past and preconceptions about drawing in order to explore other ideas. Hopefully content and process can meet somewhere halfway . . . perhaps that's that hallmark of great art?
Steven Brekelmans work is multidisciplinary combining sculpture, photography, video, and in a sense performance art. Not surprisingly, Brekelmans's approach and ideas of artmaking are multifaceted and involve a more lateral thought process. I was interested in seeing how profoundly each of his works informed the other: one work provides the context for the next work. An example of this is the stopmotion video of a series of 20 second sculptures (set to the tune of Benny Hill Theme) that show you the incremental building and dismantling of forms. This somewhat humourous piece was made in between takes of a different piece about gulf island pottery, jazz, and 5/4 time: a highly ponderous and precise piece. The juxtaposition of the heavy conceptual and the light-hearted, almost slapstick pieces is really intriguing.
I'm not sure what the result of art school will be for me. I'm coming to it later in life and I'm not even sure if getting the BFA is even the goal. I'm interested in learning about contemporary art and hopefully i can synthesize the heavy theoretical component with the visceral and intuitive approach to art  that I've developed over the years. I wonder if I'll still be painting the female nude: probably the only thing that I shouldn't be painting. I guess we'll see. I do realize that I'm more able to communicate my art with people whereas before I was a heavy proponent in "my art speaks for itself, man . . . groovy (snaps fingers)".

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Megan Dickie: science

I've been a fan of Megan Dickie's work ever since I took her Intro to Sculpture class a few years back so I was delighted when she came to talk to our class.
Her sculptural pieces gode the viewer to interact with them. The seed of this approach to comes from Dickie's sense of "wrestling" with notions of sculpture (as a male dominated field). One of her early video pieces shows her donning a wrestling mask while tussling with a sculpture of hers made of a flexible network of wax bricks. This piece also acts as a commentary about the coldness and exclusionary aspect of the austerity of architecture and sculpture that aspires to that aesthetic (Richard Serra would probably agree: he holds the belief that architecture is not art because architecture serves a function, whereas "art" serves the purpose of making the viewer experience things in a different way etc.). I like her ideas and how it questions the role and reception of sculptural work.
In her more recent pieces, such as The Gleamer, Dickie has created what she called "flexible geometry". A multitude of cut aluminum triangles are glued to a sheet in a grid fashion. This allows the viewer to pile and move the sheet into different forms: the aluminum triangles make the sheet able to stand up on it's own. This calls into play the themes of science: mathematics and physics. There's a great video of it on her website.
I really enjoy that "digital" effect of the reflections of the aluminum triangles in this piece . . . like a 3-d digital sculpture.
Dickie left off with discussing ideas about a new piece using the same principles that Buckminster Fuller used in his geodescic domes but I'm sure her piece won't suffer the snobbery of architecture (my apologize to architects out there . . . LeCorbusier would be turning in his grave lol).
Megan Dickie's work is currently at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. :)

Introspective Double

Introspective Double, 22" by 30", oil on canvas, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Theme of Science

Science and art are not polar opposites of human pursuits but go hand in hand (like peanut butter and jelly or ice cream and cake). When I was starting out as a artist, I rejected the idea that science and art were so closely linked because I thought art was concerned with how things feel instead of what they are. Consider that in painting (not taking into account anatomy, optics, or chemistry) you express an emotion of canvas (let's say desire for ice cream and cake), you bring this emotion into reality using materials and thus they are subject to the physical laws of nature = science (otherwise, the painting would only exist in your mind). Art is about expanding your awareness of the interconnectedness of things.
Matthew Ritchie, The Four Forces (The Heavy Force), 2008
One artist who deals with the theme of science is Matthew Ritchie (who I've mentioned a few times before). His work The Four Forces (The Heavy Force) is a visual representation of astro-physics or universes.

One of the artists we talked about in class who deals with the theme of science is Suzanne Archer. Her series of MRI scans is really quite intriguing because not only is it a reference to biological science, but also to psychological science.

A few of the artists who have come speak to our class also dealt with science as a theme. Daniel Laskarin
and Paul Walde.
Aside from my bromance with Carl Sagan and penchant for science fiction table top games, I'm not sure if I'm interested in science as a theme for my work, however, you can't escape the physical laws of nature! :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Paul Walde: place

Snow Drift, Paul Walde

This has to be the most interesting representation of a snowscape that I've ever seen. What Walde did was take these cathode ray tube televisions, turned them on and tuned into static, then bent the shapes on screen by using magnets glued to the sides of the tvs. I bet the sound was pretty cool too . . . like a static blizzard.
See more views of the installation here.