Traversing art

<strong>Behind the High Grass</strong>

The two artists who together make up Soft Turns, Sarah Jane Gorlitz and Wojciech Olejnik, based <em>Behind the High Grass</em> on pictures that they found in a travel book at a flea market in Berlin. Soft Turns&rsquo; exhibition explores human perceptions of the notion of history by juxtaposing visions of the past with those of the present and uses this comparison to make the viewer reconsider how history is seen from a visual perspective.

The message that Soft Turns&rsquo; exhibition is attempting to convey was neatly summed up by Gorlitz during the opening reception who said, &ldquo;So, all of these kinds of things about time and about how you experience your surroundings were really important in our thinking about the show.&rdquo; It accomplishes this interpretation by presenting the art pieces in unusual and thought provoking ways.

For example, some of the pieces are displayed on handmade bookcases that can be spun around by the viewer. Offering him or her the opportunity to physically engage with the art through touch solidifies the tangibility of the pieces within the viewer&rsquo;s mind and closes the distance between them, making the art take on a more personal, tourist-like vibe. Because the art pieces can be seen in this way, the history that they show becomes more relatable to the present and, by extension, personally significant to the viewer. Instead of the art just being a series of static pictures and a part of some moment of history, they are taken into the viewer&rsquo;s reality to become a part of their present.

Another piece of <em>Behind the High Grass</em> was projected on one of the walls of the exhibit. This art piece was actually a series of video clips of landscapes/waterscapes of various places in Bergen, Norway, that were taken from inside part of a scale model of a Tatra 87 (a car which looks similar to an old Volkswagen Beetle) with film copies of some of the pictures from the travel book handing in front of the windshield. Audio plays in the background, so the viewer can be further pulled into the copied reality of the piece by the sound of the passing traffic of cars and barges.


Place and space (redux)

Taking his inspiration from line markers, an invention devised by Edward N. Hines, C. Wells has created a series of art pieces that review the positive and negative impacts of human innovation. Initially the style of Wells’ art appeared rather chaotic, but during the event it was explained that the artist actually adhered to a strict set of techniques to construct his creations.

According to Ivan Jurakic, the director and curator at UWAG, Wells limited his own access to various art techniques by sticking to the &ldquo;rules of the road,&rdquo; using a colour pallet made up of only yellow, blue, white, red, and black &mdash; the five types of pigmentation that are used to divvy up legal public driving and parking areas. Wells always used a four-inch brush when applying the paints; the width of the brush corresponds with the width of all line markers painted on road surfaces.

&nbsp; Every one of Wells&rsquo; pieces in <em>Place and Space</em> carries within them a double meaning that refers back to both the positive and negative implementation of technology, vehicular technology in particular. One of the central pieces in Wells&rsquo; exhibition is a giant propped up billboard of a 1940s gas station attendant holding up a portrait of a landscape. Inside of the landscape, Wells has painted an explosion of black lines.

As Jarakic explained: &ldquo;[Wells is] erasing [the landscape]; he&rsquo;s overlaying it in the way that we put blacktop through the rural areas.&rdquo; Wells is challenging the viewer&rsquo;s ideologies of progress by first presenting him or her with an idealized picture of nature that ignores human industrial impacts, and then marring the scene in order to jolt the viewer into abandoning that pastoral-like vision of nature and to consider the actual ways in which technology has affected the environment. The viewer is reminded that while human inventions have given things like convenience and wealth to our society, nothing that is created by us is free of charge.