Clouds up close

Hannah Claus’ cloudscape comes to Modern Fuel ARC

Hannah Claus has shown her pieces featured in cloudscape across Canada, from Montreal to Whitehorse. They are currently on display at Modern Fuel for her exhibit cloudscape.
Hannah Claus has shown her pieces featured in cloudscape across Canada, from Montreal to Whitehorse. They are currently on display at Modern Fuel for her exhibit cloudscape.
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Montreal-based visual artist Hannah Claus has brought the sky to Kingston.

Her sculptural installation cloudscape, currently housed at Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre located at Queen and Ontario Streets, is made up of countless paper ovals strung from the ceiling and arranged into several amorphous, cloud-like shapes.

When analyzed up close, the sculptures may appear to be simply pretty. When viewed with enough distance, unmistakably deliberate and elegant forms become visible.

The effect is stunning.

cloudscape is inspired by the Haudenosaunee creation story, wherein a woman from a world above — sometimes referred to by the name Sky-Woman — came down to Earth and made the land and everything that grows on it.

Claus said cloudscape is her attempt at imagining what the world in the sky that Sky-Woman originated from might have looked like.

“For me, clouds are creation and creativity,” she said. “I wanted to recreate this idea of the sky world and what walking through that space might be like.”

An installation this intricate boggles the mind when the logistics of how it comes to be are considered. Claus outlined an elaborate process.

“I worked with someone who does 3D animation. [The clouds are] modeled with a 3D program first, then it’s put into another program where we put them in spheres, then he takes a screenshot row by row,” Claus said.

“This way an actual template is generated from the process.”

These templates are then put on her wall. She strings up each row and places the spheres where they were marked on her template.

“To put up one of the clouds it takes about three people at a time,” she said. “It’s a lot of work to install and I have to plan it out as best as possible when I plan to show it.”

Because the nature of the piece requires extra hands to assist with its assembly, Claus and Modern Fuel put out a call for volunteers. They targeted Kingston’s arts community, as well as Queen’s Fine Arts students.

Claus said she was overwhelmed by the positive response.

“It worked out really well and the volunteers that came were super dedicated. They didn’t just come to help out for two hours, they came every day for two hours, which was what I needed,” she said. “It was really fantastic.”

The result of all this work is a truly transportive piece — a small world of large becalmed clouds, changing with one’s own physical perspective.

More than anything else, the installation inspires a feeling of peaceful awe. It’s a simple idea expressed through complicated methods that successfully transcends any gimmickry such methods can inspire.

Put simply, it is an incredibly unique piece, and it deserves your attention.

“Depending on your angle it can look like complete chaos,” she said. “I want people to walk through it and be surrounded by it, and destabilized a little by it.”

cloudscape will be showing at Modern Fuel until Feb. 22.

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