Brent Bukowski: Flow

FLOW is an installation in found metal and glass inspired by the condition of the fresh water resources of the Columbia Basin. The design features the artist’s interpretation of a hydroelectric turbine. In this controversial time of privatized run-of-the-river hydroelectricity projects, in which there are substantial river and creek diversions proposed and in progress FLOW…

2009 Apr 25 – 2009 Jun 10

Curated by Deb Thompson

My first encounter with the art work of Brent Bukowski was at the Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar in 2001. His installation, Invasive Species, spiraled across the gallery walls like a hieroglyph beckoning to be read, to be made sense of, as if in sorting out its confusion one might untangle ones own confusion. With its compacted shards of glass and plant seeds confined in broken grids of metal Invasive Species seemed a visual metaphor for the controlled madness of this Postmodern world. It appeared to me that here was an artist able to give form to the collective urgency that simmers below the surface.

A year later, I met Brent in person at the Langham Art Gallery in Kaslo where he was the curator. His easy going yet somehow boiling under the surface persona rounded out my impression of his work. Reflecting on Brent’s steady production of work in the past decade, what is most striking to me is his ability to visually express his complex, inquiring mind and his sensitive concerns through his art. With a salvage yard for a studio and a bare bones budget, Brent is able to conjure up refined pieces that explore topical notions such as global consumption, extinction and environmental degradation.

In a self directed fashion that is his trademark, Brent has taught himself the essentials of design and the process that is necessary to implement a successful studio practice and serial bodies of sculptural work. He has developed a keen sense of poetry in his work through the employment of repetition, radial symmetry and use of focal points. His clever use of titles brings forth what might otherwise be only felt, such as, The Luxury of Mobility, When structures fall apart, Hoping the Situation Eases and Exercising Restraint – which serve to extend the work into a reflective context.

In 2005, Brent produced a body of work called, Circle(s), Straight Line(s) and Intersection(s). Here Brent used circular forms to contain shards of glass, bits of metal and various found objects. There is an ambiguous nature to the narratives of these pieces, an uncertainty of whether they are coming apart or being held together – exploding or imploding. A clue to this query might be held in a 2001 photo of New York’s Twin Towers going up in flames that Brent has posted as a source of inspiration on his studio wall. This sort of overt tension is characteristic of Brent’s work – an artist who is connecting worlds and bringing all of himself to bare in the making of his art.

The circle contrasts dramatically with Brent’s use of grids and other more linear components of his work. In his most recent work, Flow, the circle appears again, this time taking a covert role but none the less holding some of the narrative of the piece. An aqua blue bubble of glass representing a droplet of water, moves through each of the fourteen wicket gates towards the turbine of power amplifying the diversion and mechanization of nature as it serves the needs of a growing global market. At first glance, Brent’s installation appears to be derivative of a calculated geometry far removed from the organic workings of nature. At a closer look one finds subtle parallels to the very workings of nature. The repetition and patterning that Brent employs in his compositions and the movement of a coming together and coming apart suggests the keenness of which nature continually constructs and renews itself. A spiraling helix stands at the core of Flow tossing energy up and out into the world. Like a cellular DNA helix, this archaic form is echoed throughout nature as a whirlpool directs the flow of a river and a spiral shapes the movement of the galaxy. This mimicking of the interface of nature and technology is familiar terrain for Brent whose work transforms the discarded debris of our material culture into new ways of seeing what is already before us.

Brent’s use of found objects such as trampoline springs, electrical coils and typewriter keys, draws connections to the Pop Art movement of the 1950s and to artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauscheberg who brought recognizable objects into their pieces for symbolic purposes. A logical kinship to the Minimalist Art movement of the 1950s, through Brent’s clean use of repetition and form, can also perceived. However, I find a more compelling connection in Brent’s work to the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1960s, and artists such as Jim Dine and David Smith whose appropriation of found objects was used for expressive purposes, in externalizing their internal world of emotions. Brent’s arduous process of self expression, the obvious physicality of his process and his emotive use of materials creates a formal language that is sheer expression. And like Dine and Smith, Brent works with materials that are part of his everyday landscape, twisting, crushing, bolting and punching forms into language, allowing us to see anew the very clutter that is the legacy of our time.

Brent Bukowski

Brent Bukowski works with found objects–primarily metal and glass. His work is inspired by the observation of global, environmental patterns from the perspective of a secluded lifestyle in the mountains of British Columbia. His assemblages achieve a high level of detail in which broken and cut glass is meticulously layered in and around metalwork. His sculpture has been exhibited across Canada and is included in several public, private and corporate collections.

Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan (1968), he has lived in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia since 1992–where he and his partner have designed and constructed their house and gardens and care for their two children.

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The Nelson Museum is located in beautiful downtown Nelson, British Columbia.


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