Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, the space inside the Vernon Public Art Gallery is undergoing a transformation.
Those who step inside the gallery Thursday, and thereafter, will be able to navigate Byron Johnston’s latest site-specific sculptural installation entitled Audience… Music… Youse.
The Kelowna-based installation and environmental artist has been installing the multi-faceted work all this week, and is using the physical space of the gallery, which will feature sounds created by direct interaction between the viewer and the space.
Calling himself an investigator, Johnson says the installment is designed to create an environment in which the viewer experiences the phenomenology of space and sound, and investigates the process of perception and cognition.
“My work investigates the complex ways in which we use our intellect and our body senses to understand the world,” he said. “My research involves a new sort of relationship with space, triggering an awareness of the mind-body interactions. The major body of my work is to discover what the work manifests, and in turn, make an attempt to question humanities interface with nature.”
A long-time art professor at Okanagan University College, who is now in the creative studies department at UBC Okanagan, Johnston’s work has appeared around the valley and beyond.
His Dysfunctional Chair, which was installed at the Kelowna Art Gallery in 2009, featured a giant Alice in Wonderland-like wooden chair, too high for anyone to sit on.
“The most provocative pieces for me are those which involve the viewer in some physical manner and make the viewers articulated exertion a part of the work,” said Johnston. “My desire is to involve the spectator by placing him/her into a functioning role and allowing the viewer to participate, thus enabling our perceptions to absorb, via the interaction.”
Besides his installation at the VPAG, Johnston recently worked on another unique project with 50 of his fine art students from UBCO.
They were given permission and space to create an installation in the recently closed Ponderosa Motel, located next to the Parkinson Recreation Centre in Kelowna.
Using another Alice in Wonderland theme, the students transformed one of each of the motel’s 14 units into an artistic space under the theme, Mad Hatter: Extreme Tea Party.
That installation closes Monday, while the opening reception for Audience… Music… Youse opens with a reception at the VPAG Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. Johnston will give an artist talk about his work at the gallery April 14 at 6 p.m. The installation can be viewed up to May 19.
Also opening at the VPAG this week is the Vernon school district’s annual student exhibitions.
Art from the Heart features creations produced by elementary school students under the guidance of their art teachers.
“The students often portray the world that surrounds them, or, in other cases, they reference directly their experiences through the language of visual forms. The uninhibited approach to their art-making reflects the students’ natural inclination for a need to communicate,” said VPAG curator Lubos Culen.
Art and Soul, the exhibition of artwork created by the students from area secondary schools, displays a maturity of handling various media and, more importantly, demonstrates a strong conceptual thinking.
“The works are often communicating important messages referencing ecological and political concerns, or matters of relationships and daily lives,” added Culen.
The opening for the elementary school students’ Art from the Heart is Thursday with a reception Saturday, March 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. The exhibition closes April 14 and will be replaced by the secondary school exhibition, Art and Soul, which opens April 21 with a reception on May 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. It runs until May 19.