For the opening exhibit of the Fall 2001 season, Studio 21 in Halifax presented a show of works by two young artists, painter and printmaker Tom Hammick born England, and sculptor Vanessa Paschakarnis, native of Germany now residing in Halifax. Both artists have had extensive education in Europe and both are on the crest of a wave of international recognition for their work.
Hammick spent the summer of 2001 in Halifax, taking a break from the hectic life he leads in England as a full-time painter with teaching commitments. The opportunity to connect with the ccean and with the harbour is evident in the large canvasses seen in this show. The silhouette of a bulk carrier transforms the duality of sea and sky into a triangle, effectively breaking up the horizon line. Hammick’s style has a coarse immediacy so that the flat forms, absent of nuance, are sliced out of time. They neither suggest motion, nor are they static.
These expansive canvasses are songs of the ocean, free from conventions of colour and representation. Borders meet where a figure stands in chestdeep water, surrounded by breaking waves. He is caught between two elements, two forces, one that can swallow him, one that is his domaine-one that demands his attention, one to which he has tumed his back.
There was a bemusing congruity at the Studio 21 exhibit; situated in the former Nova Scotia Power Plant behemoth, the gallery has a view of the harbour trafficcontainer ships, tour boats, gachts, tugs and feines. Hammick gently mocks the city's much-touted waterfront with his large canvas of a sailboat, perhaps the Bluenose, against the background of steel and glass towers. The towers look less majestic, playfully ominous over the cliché sailboal. Hammick's painting, like the man himself, is full of passion. Colour and form are strong, yet the portrait entitted Detta shows what delicacy is possible when he comes in for a close view.
Viewed beside Hammick, no less dramalic and forceful was Vanessa Paschakarnis's sculpture. Lying on the gallery floor was a pair of wings, regularly creased, but with dense calcified solidity that defies any notion of flight. Redolent of fossil forms, they are suffused with a sense of something pre-historic, pre-everything but hope. Paschakarnis’s works were intentiorially placed: the viewer looked down over the Winged Being and acrass the floor to solid, smooth, oversized wings, leaning against the wall. Their density and weight was matched by three masks placed slightly above eye level. The patinated bronze, formed to a central crease like an extended aquiline feature, in fact renders Ihem more shield- than mask-like, and incapable of revealing an interior. Instead, like the Winged Being on the floor, they guide the mind's associations to an archaic all-but-remembered organic sound.
Paschakarnis attended the Academy of Arts in Dusseldorf, Stuttgart and Berlin. She obtained an MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and like Hammick her work is to be found in major international collections.