Vaness Paschakarnis's sculptures, at Acadia University Art Gallery in Wolfville, are a fundamental experience with physical form.
Ten Black Forms is an instalIation in three parts. The first, from which the exhibition takes its title, is a series of crab shelllike pieces made of plaster over wire and covered in graphite powder, giving them the textural appearance of coal. They are all about the size of a household footstool, and resemble the large rocks on many rugged Maritime shorelines. The sculptures are scattered on the gallery's floor, demanding attention as one walks between them with eyes to the ground.
The artist's aim is to give the viewer a "phenomenalogical experience" - observing via the senses rather than thought.
"The scale and the shape of the forms encourages human encounter", Paschakarnis says of her work. "I'm interested in the moment of the encounter (upon entering the gallery), the walking space."
The artist is also interested in the viewers' connections to images of nature. “They have the quality of a shell, a shelter that could protect something," she says about the collection. Placing the sculptures on the floor not only mimics the ground where natural objects would normally be found, it also “reduces the viewer to the level of the sculpture (and at the same time) the sculpture is lifted to the level of (the viewer)."
Paschakarnis uses a similar approach in relationship between art and viewer in Portraits, four drawings which are also part of the exhibition.
In each, a head-like form of thick graphite is drawn on a white, oblong sheet of paper tomimic the average-size person. The "head" is placed a little higher than average height so that the viewer must till his own head upwards to look at it.
The artist plays with light and reflection in the dark shapes so that "they appear to be present, to have a silent identity in front of you.
"I like to involve and engage the viewer, make the encounter touch (them) in some way." The third element of the show is Shield For A Human, two large (2.4- by 1- by .23-metre) sculptures, also made of plaster over wire with graphite. These pieces give the viewer a sense of shelter, in that one could hide under them. Yet at the same time they are independent entities and, as such, "do not invite you to move them."
"They are not armature (a metal framework on which a sculpture is moulded), they are things you encounter," she says.
Paschakamis explains that the encounter "takes place between us as cultural beings and these things as form."