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)".

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