Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved
by Anne Severson
BLAKE SENINI: A MONTH AFTER WORDS
Runs until July 29
Art Gallery of Calgary
Blake Senini provides us with an interior view of his mind as he sculpts with resin, light and shadow in his dramatic exhibition A Month After Words.
Four massive human-scale shapes fit into the room like a remembered conversation and thats what it is, a reconstructed memory in sculpture of Seninis visits to this particular room, to find a feeling or a mood from the exposed, early 19th century stone walls. The artist went back to his studio to materially reconstruct his lingering memories of this old Heritage Building revived by Art Gallery of Calgary (AGC) on downtowns Stephen Avenue Walk. Senini is marking a fleeting moment in time before the gallerys continuing renovations cover these specific walls.
The placement of each object is "just right," according to Senini, as he finishes the atmosphere with carefully placed, limited lighting to play off the works and create deep, rich shadows to help sculpt the shapes from space.
In each of the four pieces, the outward skin of the translucent resin is roughly smoothed, revealing a personal presence. If you look closely, you can see the impressions left by the artists fingers as they were dragged through the red clay that was part of the foundation for the liquid, colourless resin. As he washed the red oxide clay from the inside of the hollow forms, traces of their history adhered to the resin, adding to the visual texture of the ghostly forms. Grinding the outside surface to a perfect imperfection, the artist adds another layer of the human element.
The pieces are unnamed, leaving the viewers to shape their own memories that have been extracted from the familiar, yet unfamiliar, dislocated forms. These sculptures are like fragments of assorted memories from an indeterminate time that are cut up and then relocated.
The largest, spotlighted piece in the centre is a curved wedge. A study in space, it is related to the visual flat shape of the area occupied by a staircase within an old stone Irish church depicted in a small print hanging in the artists home. Senini has captured the light and the reverent stillness and silence of the art gallery/church that functions as a shrine to the unknown. Leaving clues such as the archetypal shape of an arch flooded with amber light, Senini creates a mood, an emotion.
In direct contrast to this shape, it is easy to initially bypass the heavy mantelpiece placed high on the wall near the entrance. The underside is defined with a hard sharp shadow that emphasizes the top image fading into the walls and ceiling. The weight of a too-heavy mysterious vessel bends the end of the mantel just enough to create a precarious, unsettling feeling when viewed from beneath.
Perhaps Seninis most intriguing shape is his latest piece, spotlighted on the back wall. The straight vertical edge that viewers see as they walk into the room could be an obelisk, a standing figure, or even a stone tombstone. Examination of the strongly-lit side reveals a harsh, unwelcome surface that is cold, rough and unforgiving. It is a tombstone. Seeking relief on the shadowed side, a sanctuary evolves from the glowing, welcoming light that is cast from the other side. Feeling safe and protected, this panel invites a study of the visual texture of this "window" that casts such a long ominous shadow. Reminiscent of de Chiricos long dark shadows contrasting surrealistically with a too-bright openness, a feeling of expectancy warns/warms the viewer in this frozen time of orchestrated light.
With this simplest shape in the room, Senini emphasizes that his original source for this image is just an ordinary window that he sees every day in his house. The artist reveals that "the most interesting art is really simple, really banal. Seen every day, you get used to it, but if you take the time to see it in a different way, as if you had never seen it before, it becomes dislocated, almost scary, but also quirky and fun. I take the simplest object, dislocate it, and make it incredibly complex."
Senini is an ACAD instructor who creates space. Currently his work is also being exhibited in the prestigious Alberta Biennial 2000 now showing in Edmonton Art Galley before it opens during Calgarys ArtWalk Festival 2000 this September.
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