INTERVIEW: SciArt Center members Lorrie Fredette and Gianluca Bianchino discuss exhibition at Hunterdon Art Museum
By Jeanne Brasile
SciArt members Lorrie Fredette and Gianluca Bianchino are currently featured in a two person exhibition at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey. Both artists are strongly inspired by experimentation and research in the fields of biology and astronomy. Fredette investigates organic structures, while Bianchino explores celestial phenomena. Both artists rely heavily on developments in lens technology, which make it possible to peer deeply into the structure of cells, as well as the grand expanse of the universe.
Our ability to see cellular forms magnified tens of thousands of times or peer light years into space impacts our relationship to a world that is both much larger and smaller than ourselves. This knowledge that we are located between the infinite and the infinitesimal profoundly alters our individual and collective sense of self, a sensibility that is heightened as one navigates the distant worlds presented in Through the Lens. Shortly after the installation, curator Jeanne Brasile spoke with Gianluca Bianchino and Lorrie Fredette about the exhibition and their art practices.
Jeanne Brasile: I wanted to start by asking you about your creative processes before we get to some specifics about the show. Your bodies’ of work reflect a preoccupation with scientific discoveries and principles. I know you both spend a great deal of time researching and making, but how much of your time is spent thinking --and do you consider that a significant aspect of your creative process?
Lorrie Fredette: Thinking is, in fact, a vital part of my creative process. My studio practice is equal parts research, thinking and making. These balanced measurements do not translate into exacting calculation, but more like a recipe from memory - a dash, a pinch, a splash. Without the time to consider, I would not reasonably comprehend the topic, nor could I form my next question, thus my next move.
Gianluca Bianchino: Inevitably, I think about my work quite a lot but the process of making the actual work triggers an almost independent thought process. Ideas concerning physics and the fabric of space and time dominate the conversation inside my head. The visualizations are almost cinematic, filled with events and sometimes characters. There’s an idea of storytelling taking place. However, I have to surrender these thoughts to the process of making the work. An intuitive force takes over that is dictated by the construction of the work. Preconceived notions of the work have to be reinterpreted by how the materials behave and the demands they place on me. The work emerges out of a series of decisions that are in direct conversation with the object that is being created.
JB: What do you think about when you’re in the studio?
GB: The studio is a time to work and less of a time to think. I think about how to initiate a work flow even on days when creative energy may be lower than usual. Once I enter a certain stream of consciousness that is married to the art-making process, it becomes difficult to unplug. I am forced to follow the demands placed by the work.
LF: Actually, my interest is to forget when in the studio. Of course, there is the obvious of shutting the door to life's demands but my studio time requires I let my newly found knowledge go moving away from the truths represented in the source materials. I don't take my writing, research or sketches into the studio. I work from a dangerous place - memory.
JB: How much of these internal conversations wind up evinced in the work, if at all?
LF: It's inevitable that some of these considerations end up in the work though I seem them as mutations.
GB: Much of what I think about in terms of the relationship between the work and the viewer does turn out in the work but I only know this for certain when the viewer confirms it by dialoging with me about it. In the case of the lenses (a reference to his “Portals” series), which are for the most part referential to telescopes - objects designed to look outward to receive light and information -- there’s an inversion in the function of the object. In this work the viewer is engaged in observing what is contained in the object thus engaging the light and information that it emits. Therefore, I create installations that are in conversation with the architectural idea of an observatory, but the laws of my observatories are different. In a sense, they are reversed. However, I must not forget that ultimately I am discussing sculpture and painting and that is more critical to me than the science or science fiction.
JB: Let’s talk about “Through the Lens.” There’s a great deal of interplay occurring in the gallery between your two installations. How did you approach that?
GB: In my mind it worked as two artists bringing a similar experience to the viewer but on different scales. I imagined Lorrie’s work to be an outward projection of things that are usually observed through a lens because of their microscopic scale. I wanted to do the opposite, which is to bring an experience of large scale at a more intimate level. The two bodies of work function as a continuous extension of the same universe observed from different vantage points. The viewer can dwarf and be dwarfed by the artwork almost simultaneously.
LF: Because we’ve had several conversations and we've exhibited together previously, there is gravitation in our combined works. Our ideas, as well as the objects we each make, are in harmony. I see the gallery dialog as a mature conversation. The install, the observations of one another's interest in location and the direct responsive correlation all reflect this interplay and compatibility.
JB: In what ways did working in tandem change your planning and installation process?
LF: Typically, I enter an exhibition with all aspects planned, but not this time. The planning and installation processes were rooted in conversation, the experiences of exhibiting together and moments of responsive interplay. For me, these aspects were undertones of my days in theater when all parties were engaged in each aspect of the process. It is through communication that our show developed.
GB: Besides intuition, which in this case was primarily informed by having previously shown with as well as having professionally photographed her sculptures, I kept in mind the potential for one work to become both a physical and intellectual extension of the other. There are moments in the show where certain sculptures by Lorrie become a distinct extension of the information contained in the lenses, or vice versa. The lenses care to investigate the sculptures from their own perspective, and we did this more directly in a collaborative piece. Additionally, Lorrie’s work is almost unbound by gravity, whereas my lenses need a ground - the wall and the pedestals. These interactions generated the final display.
JB: One of the more fun aspects, for me, was seeing the work in an environment steeped in history. Do you think this changes the context of your work in any way? How?
GB: My preference will always be to bring work to cultural institutions. My work is concerned with curiosity which involves observation. And curiosity and history have had a marriage of turmoil with many ups and downs. Minds that have been all too curious to bring change to the world based on observation have often died for their sins. A gallery doesn’t always remind us of that brutal past from which a lot artwork stems. But a historical structure creates a different time capsule because one can feel the debates that have gone on that have led that building to withstand the test of time.
LF: The location, be it architectural or geographical, regularly infuses my work. I could not, nor would I, bypass the opportunity to imbue my installation with such historical content.
JB: As a former grist mill, the industrial architecture of the Hunterdon Art Museum galleries features rough-hewn beams, visible joists, unusual niches and irregular angles. Did you engage the space differently than you would a white cube gallery?
LF: The space informed the work and vice versa. When we made our site visit, the intimacy of this particular gallery was compelling. The obvious and obscure spaces enhance our experience. The “found” components cause a contemplation of their manifestation. Whereas, the highly visible and accessible pieces equally resonate because of their deliberate placement. The space, in my opinion, is almost the polar opposition of a traditional gallery.
GB: I did to a certain extent, but perhaps not as much as Lorrie has done with her work, which is more responsive to architecture. Though the space is very particular and unique I am primarily working with the walls which are for the most part ordinary. I did have to consider the layout of the room and the intrusion of some beams into the floor space which, in conjunction with the placement of Lorrie’s work, informed the distribution of the Portals around the space. Perhaps my appropriation of pedestals is my attempt to interact with some of the rectangular beams present in the ceiling as well as defy what is wall and what is floor space.
JB: For this show you pushed your work in new directions. Can you talk about these innovations and how you arrived at them?
LF: I wanted to be in dialog with the ceiling chutes. My initial research revealed the historic functionality of the building. With this knowledge, I could combine atmospheric causes and directionality. These chutes would have fed their product into collection bins. For this installation, they could function as a deliverer of pathogens. The distribution of forms demanded a freedom to spill out and over. To achieve this physicality and enhance the immersive experience, I called upon my background in theater to create a structure that would be free of tethering. The visual impact needed to be one of wonderment.
GB: Before this show the lenses were presented as temporary works, featured as elements in larger experimental installations. But I always knew they had potential to become permanent objects. Thinking about how they could relate to Lorrie’s work helped me find a context to present them in, which involves both form and function. Since we are discussing observation of things that are happening at the microscopic level, I wanted to make something that did such a thing very directly or at least alluded to that. So I created objects that look and function as quasi instruments. In this case they resemble medium format photo cameras, which are cameras I used for several years in commercial photography before the advent of digital. What an autobiographical surprise it was when I made the connection.
JB: Do you foresee any changes in your work as a result of working in a collaborative fashion or in this eclectic architecture?
GB: Similarly to Lorrie, my work usually responds to architecture. In this work the approach was a little different. Much of what I wanted the viewer to experience is contained in the lenses, so I focused on an exterior architecture that would lead the viewer to the Portals. In this minimization of my installation habits I discovered the potential for drawing with three dimensional tubes on the wall. In my mind they function as vectors or directional cues, a bit like lines on a star chart. I am grateful to have been able to work on a more intimate aspect of my work. It may have not happened with the same successful results had it not been through collaboration
LF: This experience reminded me of the importance to remain in a state of wonder. I intend to access this position with my next body of work.
Through the Lens runs through January 3rd, 2016
The Hunterdon Art Museum
7 Lower Center Street
Clinton, New Jersey 08809
Gallery Hours: Tues – Sun, 11am to 5pm