ConneXions

    Thursday, October 31, 1991 to Saturday, November 23, 1991


    The works of Peter Gnass are large assertive sculptural installations which evoke at first a feeling of mystery. This mystery is the invisible thread connecting the individual objects and various works, and it is that other dimension created between the works and the viewer. These works demand an active involvement from us. It is when we begin asking question that the mystery begins to partially reveal itself to us. A sort of decoding takes place and the more one looks and the more one asks, the more proficient one becomes in the language of the artist and consequently in the works themselves. In other words, one becomes aware of the connections. These connections are of the essence for they carry the underlying interests and themes of the artist. Time, life, man, nature, their fragments and their traces; there are the concerns of Peter Gnass. What surfaces from the way he deals with these issues is an undercurrent of love and great respect for them. A respect for life. His works speak eloquently of an interaction, of connections, between people, places, memories and ideas. Like instruments in an orchestra, images and objects are selected for the qualities they bring into the work; each has its own unique characteristics but it must also be “resonant”. The working style of Peter Gnass is comparable to the way his art reveals itself to us. First there is usually an image, (presented in the form of a photograph), which sparks his (our) attention and triggers his (our) imagination. As such it provides a measure of immediate gratification and begins to propel the process of creation and, correspondingly, of recognition and appreciation. It is both the point of “conception” and the point of reference. Other objects are then considered until nothing more can be added, nothing more can be taken away. I have said that time is an important element in Peter’s work. Many of the objects imply time; time PAST – the eel in Ile au Fermier, Varennes, Québec., 1991 or in the wooden bar and the collection of taps in Vespucio, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela 1991; time PRESENT – T.V. in 10° 49’57” N, 065° 11’51”W, 1991; or timelessness – the everpresent ocean. The works are a combination of time(s). A section of life, a fragment of the universe, everything interconnected. Time PAST encapsulated in objects which long ago may have ceased to serve their “original” function of purpose becomes time PRESENT as these objects resurface through the hands of the artist. The (found or constructed) objects which Peter uses in his works are chosen because of and with respect to the life they represent, the time they represent. The sculptures become testimonials to life, affirmations of life. The life of the artist within, and as part of, the continuum. In Peter’s works energy and tension are created by the constant oscillation between the present and the past, the man-made and the found, the emotional and the rational, they add simple enjoyment and pleasure. The oscillation is particularly at work in Vespucio, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, 1991 The central object is a long, old used wooden bar with hinges at either end still attached. It is a part of an old boat found in Vespucio, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, 1991. A long, narrow handle is in the center; it has been well polished by the artist. This handle evokes the sense of security and dependence a boat would provide on the ocean. A series of colour photographs is spread across the length of the wood. There are photographs of the ocean, a distant sky, a hand (the artist’s?) holding on to a railing, the Canadian flag, a diver’s outfit, a dolphin, a caught fish, and so on. A collection of autobiographical momentos of life on the ocean. Time AWAY. Between these photos are taps for collecting maple syrup, in fact a whole collection of old taps purchased from a museum in Châteauguay, Québec. At either end is a chisel – like a tool for making holes for these taps. The artist has attached turnbuckles to the hinges at each end of the wooden bar. They give the bar the correct position in relation to the wall and thus they resemble, in function, the original end pieces. The tools for syrup tapping, the turnbuckles, these are time HERE and time COMMON, while the wooden bar and the photos, time PERSONAL and time AWAY. Is the artist communicating that being away on the timeless ocean, so powerful yet reassuring, physical yet unconquerable, bared yet endlessly mysterious, is a solace to him? Is it when he is away from it all, from history, tradition, hypocracy, man-made and man-destroyed environment, that the artist feels his true self? Is the ocean where the artist heals and reconnects with himself? Where is he free to be and to dream? The ocean is a source of inspiration for many of Peter’s works. In fact, the sea has always played an important part in the artist’s life. Born in Rostock on the northern coast of Germany he had close contact with it since childhood. It is therefore not surprising that it would play such a large part in his work and even become one of its points of convergence. Peter has been constructing these sculptural installations, in which the 2- and 3- dimensional are combined, for some fifteen years now. Over time, his preoccupation with 2-dimensional images alone and with geometric shapes (often neon lights) shifted to works more in tune with Peter’s personal situation, with his immediate environment. In Ile au Fermier, Varennes, Québec., 1991. the artist deals primarily with time; the past and the present, death and rebirth, decay and renewal, the permanent and the temporal, civilization vs. nature. In 10° 49’57” N, 065° 11’51”W, 1991 the dominant themes are sea, boat, (its shape, power and colour), the relationship between the guide and the guided. A radically different experience of the sea is . There is no mistaking the hazards. Perhaps the most meditative of the works in this exhibition is Petite Rivière au Renard, Quebec, 1989. In fact in this work, all the artist’s concerns appear together as a powerful testament to life. Life that was, once sturdy and strong and great, now reduced to fragments and traces, blending with the larger continuum; man vs. nature. And the cycle repeats itself. When we study the works of Peter Gnass we travel between form and content, between overt and covert meaning, between the present and the past, between the personal and the public. Our eyes travel from object to object, from surface to surface, from the various materials and their colour, their shape. These are intensely evocative works and “understanding them” is, ironically, a very sensual experience. Sylva O. Whyte, Exhibition Curator