Thursday, 09 February 2017 14:07

Conceptual artist provides alternative view on life and the universe for Swift Current show

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Conceptual artist Hugh Henry of Swift Current has created two installation artworks that will only be shown once during an exhibition currently taking place at the Lyric Theatre.


He spoke about his latest artworks and his previous works during a public reception for the exhibition Leap of Faith at the Lyric Theatre, Feb. 5.
“An installation in a sense is an artwork that’s meant to be in a particular spot,” he told the Prairie Post. “These two pieces of artwork wouldn’t work in another setting. They’re made and designed and conceived with the Lyric Theatre in mind.”
He noted the high ceilings and black walls of the Lyric Theatre provide a perfect backdrop for the two pieces in the art installation.
“They don’t work in another context,” he said. “They’re invented and meant for this space only and so this is the only place they will be shown and can be shown because they’re integral to the atmosphere that’s here.”
The art installation will therefore be taken down after the exhibition. Some of the pieces will be thrown away while other components might be used again.
“Some of the components in here now I’ve used in previous art pieces,” he said. “Some of them I think may have another life to live in a different piece of artwork I may save, not necessarily in that form, but they could be cut down or reshaped or something else. A lot of it I think in my mind at this point doesn’t have another use. So it will probably just be recycled or thrown away.”
The two art pieces in this exhibition reflects on human efforts to understand the universe, whether through science or religion. The theme of the exhibition refers to the fact that an attempt to understand the force responsible for creation and life is a leap of faith.
“We’ve got science that talks about all this vastness out there and we’ve got religion that’s talking about all this vastness out there, and all the things that are in their belief system are real and in the scientist’s mind are real in a sense, maybe not proven in the same way that religion is not proven,” he said. “So I’m just putting those two things together. Are they part of the same thing? I don’t want to start an argument, ... I’m just saying to the viewer here’s something to think about.”
The one art piece, Long Lost Cousins, presents a variety of objects that depicts planets and other stellar objects. The other art piece, String Theory, refers to a branch of molecular theoretical physics that aims to provide an explanation for how matter in the universe is structured and functions.
“They’re reflections on a lot of things that are expressed in the media that we somehow take for granted and in this particular case it has a reflection on science,” he said. “We have these extremes about what the universe is made of in a very microscopic sense and on the other side of it these great big, multibillion mile canopy above us, which may or may not have life or earth-like planets revolving around sun-like stars.”
He used all kinds of materials to create this art installation, varying from children play balls to serving plates, pieces of styrofoam, Christmas tree decorations, a variety of electrical cords and wires, copper scrubbers and even coat hangers.
“People will say this is not art because a lot of people's understanding of art is drawing and painting and sculpture, and this sort of visual expression is not common to a lot of people,” he said. “So people can walk in and say anybody can do that, which is true, anybody can do this, but again the underlying thing is that no one else has done it. This is the creative process of an artist to put something new out there for reflection of a larger audience. ... It's just a way to reflect on the world around us and get people to maybe think outside the box a little bit in terms of what art is and then what's happening in life around us and if it brings a bit of enjoyment, that’s what it’s meant to do.”
Henry has been creating art seriously for about 35 years. He completed a teaching degree and one of his majors was in visual art. He has been a Swift Current resident for 31 years and he was the curator of the Swift Current Museum when he retired in 2011. He appreciates the opportunities to show his art at venues such as the Lyric Theatre and the Art Gallery of Swift Current.
“You need those sorts of places,” he said. “You can’t have it in your basement and nobody gets a chance to see it. You have to have it in the public view in order to make it work, because it’s not art until someone else sees it.”
He has a natural inclination to create art. He will think about things that happen around him and he will then express those ideas in a visual way.
“It can percolate for a number of years until the idea has a visual sort of form about it,” he said. “I work a lot with found materials. I’ll save materials, thinking I don’t have a use for it right now, but it’s kind of an interesting item that maybe I can use in some sort of visual expression at some time in the future. The difficult part of it is assembling and saving all these things, and some of them get used, some of them don't get used, but that's just sort of the nature of the game.”
He prefers to do installation art and assemblages because he enjoys to build and construct things. He has carpentry experience and the physical nature of creating an art installation is more appealing to him than other artistic expressions.
He grew up in the village of Shamrock, south of Chaplin and his upbringing in a rural community had an influence on his art.
“There’s six kids in our family and I’m probably the one with the strongest interest in history and visual art,” he said. “A lot of the work I have done in the past and still do, relates to the history of rural Saskatchewan, the landscape of rural Saskatchewan and some of the social issues, like the decline of rural Saskatchewan.”
He also reflects on current social issues in his artwork and he will present a view that is contrary to mainstream ideas.
“We’re told by the media almost how to think about things and we don’t question them, or told by our politicians this is the way you should think or this is the way to act,” he said. “So I’ve always been one to walk outside that sort of mainstream of acting and doing and doing things you’re supposed to be or expected to do.”
Henry’s current exhibition Leap of Faith will be on show at the Lyric Theatre until March 12 and can be viewed during event programming and Blender music concerts at the theatre.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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