Vibrant Disappearance: A chilling exhibit

Artist creates works using ice and natural pigments 

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“I don’t believe there is such a thing as meaningless art,” said Ewa Scheer, standing amidst her artwork entitled Vibrant Disappearance at Studio 22.  

“All art is about communication. If someone comes to me and says that they want a piece that does not have a message attached to it, I tell them that is not possible.”

Perhaps this is Scheers background in philosophy making itself apparent. Scheer completed a masters program in philosophy in her native country of Poland before enrolling in a Bachelor of Applied Arts at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, followed by a Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Regina.  

Describing Scheers work is an unruly task; words can’t do it justice. If you had to describe the northern lights, a nebula explosion, a coral reef or a living organism under a microscope to someone who had never seen such a thing before, you might be able to grasp the current difficulty of this writers task. 

The best attempt to convey the sense of innovation within Scheers’ work is to describe how she creates it. First, she finds a cool natural canvas — with cool referring to the fact that, well, Scheer paints on ice. Once she has spotted a patch that interests her, she sets to work with non-toxic pigments, most often food colouring, milk, egg yolk or some combination thereof. 

“Next, I play around with the paint, pour water in different places, freeze my butt off and then take a photo,” Scheer said jokingly, but the strikingly intense final products belie her modest humour.

The ice paintings capture a moment in time that lasts for seconds before ices' natural tendency to melt renders it history. The combination of vibrant pigments and the structure of the ice when observed at close range results in a simultaneously unearthly and yet wholly terrestrial image.

    Ewa Scheer’s Vibrant Disappearance exhibit at Studio 22. Photos by Caela Fenton. 

Scheer’s ice paintings are often referred to by the broader art community as environmental art, however the artist resists that category. “I don’t think there should be art and then environmental art, it seems like an artificial divide to me,” said Scheer. “It mirrors the way that people often speak of the environment as something that is separate from humans, which is another fallacious division.”

Scheer used a metaphor to explain further what she means by this: “What I’m interested in with these pieces is the fact that the world is one big room and were in it together, but the room is also us, we are the environment, there is no separation.”

Another reason that Scheer resists the term environmental art is because she thinks it implies that her art is completely green.

“My art is plastic, its acrylic, it sits behind plexiglass. While its certainly not a single-use disposable like many items our world now takes for granted, it isn’t completely without impact,” said Scheer. “I bring my human crap out into the woods. I bring my culture and impose it to make art.”

One of Scheer’s influences is Andy Goldsworthy, a British artist who creates sculpture out of sticks, leaves and rocks — really, anything that can be found in the woods. He takes a photo of his creation and then its left again to the elements. 

“He will spend hours making a configuration out of sticks, knowing its impermanence, knowing that it will collapse,” Scheer said. “Even though he finds his material within his surroundings and I do the opposite, bringing mine in with me, I like to think that we both create art by allowing ourselves to just be hominids lost in the woods.”

Vibrant Disappearance will remain at Studio 22, located at 320 King St E, until July 3.

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