Special to The Citizen
Art comes in many forms - from the permanent pieces designed to be hung up or displayed to endure the tests of time, to the transient pieces that are only meant to captivate their audience for a few fleeting moments.
Vancouver-based artists Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky have been pushing the lines that divide these two concepts through their work, which most recently they have brought to Wells College.
The artists are presently displaying two pieces that embody the idea of transient art, but both pieces do have a certain permanence.
On display in Wells' String Room Gallery are “Music of Chance 3” and “Sun in an Empty Room 2.”
The pieces were created from some of the artists' favorite mediums: cast aluminum foil and paper mache. Mahovsky explained via e-mail from Vancouver that they enjoy working in these impermanent mediums.
“As you can see at Wells College, we do a lot of work in unusual materials,” Mahovsky explained. “Aluminum foil or very crude flour-and-water paper mache, for example. These works are fragile and ephemeral - they are made for the show and recycled afterwards. This type of work is made through a casting or embossing process, casting directly from real objects. We also work in more permanent materials - plaster and resin. However, even those permanent works are often precarious - they are carefully balanced structures that are easily toppled.”
Each piece is unique. “Music of Chance 3” is a small piece cast in aluminum foil, comprised of everyday objects, such as keys and chains.
“Sun in an Empty Room 2” is a much larger piece created from paper mache and taking up an entire room in the gallery, casting objects like bottles and cans in the paper mache, creating a unique visual landscape as light streams through the windows of the room at different times of day.
These pieces are designed to challenge the viewer to bring their own perspective to them. And this fits right in with the artists' perspectives on their own work - which, like their work, is malleable.
“Well, we call ourselves sculptors,” Mahovsky said. “We are interested in the way people relate to objects, and to the way art objects relate to the real space that the viewer is standing in. Our work tries to engage with contemporary ideas in art, if that is what you mean by avant garde. Art has reached a point where pretty much anything goes, so it's hard to use the term avant garde anymore. If you look at pretty much any artist now, whatever they are doing you can find some influence of conceptual art, for example.”
Along with objects, the artists have many other influences on their work, from Andy Warhol to painters like Giorgio Morandi, Peter Doig or Philip Guston.
Their interest in art is something that stretches back to a childhood interest in drawing. It has taken them on to master's degrees in fine art from the University of British Columbia and exhibitions of their work across Canada and into the United States and Europe, where they've shown in Berlin and Madrid.
Mahovsky said the Wells show came about when art professor William Ganis, who runs the String Room Gallery, was vacationing in Canada, saw their work and became interested in bringing it to Wells.
The artists jumped at the chance.
“Primarily because William seemed like a good person to work with - he's smart and engaged,” Mahovsky said. “We are always interested in any opportunity to develop our work and push it further. Because this work is ephemeral and only made on-site, the gallery becomes a studio for us, providing the kind of space we don't have on our own. Any show brings a new audience as well - seeing how an audience meets your work develops you as an artist.”
And while the artists are most interested in how the viewer sees their work, they do hope it has an effect.
“Our work is a kind of cartoon or exaggerated version of the world,” Mahovsky said. “On one hand it's about slowing down and puzzling through something - what is this aluminum foil thing, how does it relate to the real world? … Objects are alternately comforting and frightening. In some way, our work is about sorting through that experience.