Monday, January 11, 2010

Coffee Art in a Gallery Space

By Judit Trunkos

[caption id="attachment_964" align="alignleft" width="167" caption="Jonathan Brilliant with his coffee object installations"][/caption]

Photo By Kati Szollossy

McMaster Gallery opens the new year with Jonathan Brilliant’s coffee object installations.  The temporary pieces of art are built exclusively for each hosting gallery. Brilliant uses unaltered everyday objects from coffee shops, such as sticks, straws, and sleeves to install his work. “Sticks, Straws, Sleeves and Lids” is part of Brilliant’s nationwide “Have Sticks Will Travel Tour” which takes him to various galleries to build massive, suspended sculptures from coffee stirrer sticks.

Brilliant is inspired by natural, everyday objects and sees coffee shops as a natural environment for modern urban dwellers. He ultimately finds art in objects most of us would use and throw away.

“Running through my work is a genuine interest in the inherent qualities of a material and the extent to which I can exploit it for making art,” he says.

“Rather than relying on intuitive approaches to art making I have a set of systems I apply to the materials at hand. These systems include but are not limited to: weaving, welding, stacking, arranging, mold making and creating compositional elements.”

Brilliant’s creative process utilizes each unique gallery space. At McMaster Gallery, for instance, Brilliant wove the existing light fixtures and their metal structure together to hold the installation.  Thus, the gallery space becomes part of Brilliant’s artwork.

“I keep images of the gallery space and plan my installations before I actually start building them at the location,” he explains. “I draw a plan of the actual shapes of the installation.  I am also using a specific type of stick.”

Brilliant builds his tall coffee stick structures without using any glue. The sticks are woven together and held by the pressure of neighboring sticks. But the tall spider web-like constructions are not the only pieces he creates. The show also includes wall installations made of straws, lids and prints.  One of the signature elements of Brilliant’s work is that he only uses unaltered materials. For instance, when installing dozens of plastic lids into circles on the wall, Brilliant pins the lids to the wall through the already existing whole on the lid. When working with straws, he does not modify or even break the plastic structure of the straw.

In many ways, Brilliant brings his skills into a space and responds to the existing properties of the room to ultimately create an installation. When the exhibition ends, he breaks down the structure, never to recreate it again. After an exhibition is over, it only lives in the viewer’s memory (and why the pieces do not have titles). The narrative comes from the interaction of the gallery space, the viewer and the artist combined at that one moment in time.

An artist talk will take place on Tuesday, January 26 from 4-5 pm in Room 214 at McMaster, followed by a reception. The exhibition can be seen through February 23.