New York based artist Jaanika Peerna on gravity, 3D and motion in the work
02 may 2016 by Ana-Margherita Zuccolo
Throughout her work, Jaanika Peerna crystallises the conceptual beauty of human movement. Her art transcribes mesmerising female qualities from their fiery nature to frozen canvas. The works are unique in the juxtaposition created by recording the flowing aspects of a being on a static medium. Through this, the dynamic dimensions are rendered static while the invariable canvas appears to flow, breaking the conventional barrier between still and moving, fixed moment and continuous existence, life and death.
We talked with Jaanika about the role gravity, three-dimensionality and motion in her artistic practice and her new series of works.
AZ: You are currently having a solo exhibition in Cologne. Could you tell us more about it?
JP: Yes. It is my first exhibition with Ulf Larsson Galerie in Cologne, titled “Gravitational Tendencies”. I am showing drawings and wall objects made from this very thin plastic material called Mylar, which I have been using for the past 10 years for my work. The force of gravity is something that was first used as my “collaborator” for making these large drawings. Art writer Taney Roniger describes the process very well:
“Peerna gathers a fistful of pencils in both hands and stands before a large sheet of Mylar temporarily affixed to a hard surface. Then, extending her arms to their terminal length and pushing her pencil tips against the Mylar, she snaps her body down to the floor in one swift stroke. Essentially an act of free fall leavened by friction, the movement produces a bold graphic streak that cannot be attributed to the artist’s agency alone. Rather, it is the artist in intimate contact with both her materials and the force of gravity that is its source."
In addition to the gravitational process described above, I am recently also using water which by sliding down the plastic surface dissolves the previously drawn pigment lines. The interaction between dry pigment lines and water makes the drawings. I don't have so much control over the process and result, so most of the works never see the public eye.
The wall objects exhibited as part of “Gravitational Tendencies” are made by cutting the drawings into one-inch strips and creating three-dimensional works, which are formed by gravity.
AZ: Your work revolves around a fluctuating reality of line and light, inducing the perpetual process of momentum. How does this exhibition build up on that? What is the main subject of your current work?
JP: As an artist, I am much more interested in transitional phases than fixed objects or states of mind. Movement is the basis of life on all levels, from micro to macro. And I am using the line as an element to try to capture the ever-changing reality around us. And as mentioned above these days I am aware of the effects of gravity on me and the lines that I am making. Beyond that I just did a collaboration performance piece with Lucio Corrente, a Milan-based cellist and physicist at the Espronceda Center for Art and Culture in Barcelona where we took inspiration from gravitational waves which were for the first time ever detected on Earth by USA scientists just a few months ago. Just imagine that two black holes that merged a long, long time ago caused gravitational waves that can be measured right here, right now!
AZ: What inspired you to put together this exhibition?
JP: In addition to what I had said above I am interested in how the illusionary 3D space of drawings enters the physical space as wall sculptures. I am using the same materials for both works, yet the impact is very different.
AZ: With which artwork do you identify most from “Gravitational Tendencies” and why?
JP: I think for me it is one of the wall objects that still puzzles me. Perhaps because during the process of installing it seemed like it didn't want to be assembled the way I had planned, it had its own mind! The wall objects included in the exhibition are highly dependent on the spot they are hung from since gravity creates the form for all the wall objects. This work might be the precursor for new work to come.
AZ: In 2015, you also published your first art book. Can you please tell us more about it?
JP: “Jaanika Peerna: Storms and Silences” brings together my work from the past 5 years covering drawing, light works, video installations as well as performances. It also includes 2 essays on my work: an Estonian art writer Heie Treier looks at my work in the context of Estonian influences since I was born and grew up in Soviet and starting 1991 newly independent Estonia, before I moved to New York where I live and work since 1998. The second text is by UK based Fiona Robinson who brings the connection between my practice as a studio artist and performance artist into a close-up view. Designed and printed with care in Estonia this more than 100 page book is an honour to have for an artist.
AZ: What is, in your opinion, an essential aspect in understanding your art?
JP: Such a good question. I think when experiencing my work it is good to consider what the work IS in material and technical terms as well as what it DOES when you are taking it in. I hope that my work creates motion in ones perception as well as moves people by giving just a little hint of the vast murmuring world we live in.
AZ: Last question, what are your upcoming plans?
JP: This is a hard question since the latest projects are still too close to me, but I know a couple of performance projects are ahead as well as getting messy in the privacy of my studio…letting the gravity tell me where to go next.
Jaanika Peerna is an Estonia-born artist living and working primarily in New York since 1998. She holds a MA in Fine Art from SUNY New Paltz, New York (2005) and is the recepient of several prizes such as the FID Grand Prix (2016), the Artist Pension Trust Award for her residency and exhibition at Scuola Di Grafica in Venice, Italy (2014) and the First Drawing Award, Tallinn International Drawing Triennial, Estonia (2012).
Jaanika's current campaign is part of her Melt Series, which includes drawings that continue her ongoing interest in the transitional phases of various natural phenomena.
All images courtesy of the artist.