Nicolas Sassoon’s Witchcraft exhibition explores spirituality in the digital realm

Tuesday 10th, February 2015 / 15:41
By Yasmine Shemesh

ArtNicholasSassoonVANCOUVER — It’s a curious concept but it makes sense when you think about it—a supernatural view of the world mirrors the magic of technology. The digital landscape is, really, a mystical place; an evolving terrain where things once deemed impossible become reality. Our human experience has subsequently undergone a colossal shift in how we communicate, create and even exist. Inevitably, questions begin to arise: what of spirituality? How does it integrate into the online realm? How do we interpret it?

This notion is explored in Witchcraft, an exhibition presented at Initial Gallery and curated by digital artist Nicolas Sassoon. Sassoon, born in France and now based in Vancouver, grew up surrounded by digital media. He identified computer graphics and video footage as images important as paintings or photos and naturally gravitated to using virtual tools as a means of expression. In 2008, he joined online collective Computers Club and met a community of individuals who worked in a way that stepped outside traditional academic thinking. “What really struck me was that level of freedom that each of these artists had,” says Sassoon. “Their way of [portraying] their work online and also their proficiency with the tool that they were using.” He was fascinated with the online environment’s facilitation of this art’s growth and how it confronted themes of spirituality and identity. “What’s interesting to me is that these questions are very integral questions,” Sassoon continues. “They’re not questions from the 21st century or the 20th century, they’re questions you see for as long as you look back. It’s something that’s been present.”

The four artists displayed in Witchcraft—Sara Ludy, Laura Brothers, Brenna Murphy and Krist Wood—address these thoughts through both the esoteric tone of their works and within the digital mediums they use. (An interesting note: Ludy, Brothers and Wood have all been involved with Computers Club and Wood is a founder.)

Ludy’s presentation consists of sculpted vessels that house a file, which plays through a video projection. She often examines everyday spaces in her art and here looks at the spiritual implications of storing material on hardware. Familiarity in the abstract also exists in the work of Brothers, who will show two pixel-based portraits made from shapes that, at first, look like textured marks but soon begin to resemble faces and figures.

Murphy has created a maze of hand-drawn and sculpted structures in an expanding iteration of a self-made world, perhaps echoing the computer’s inner components. And, finally, Wood will present a series of digital images transmounted into acrylic to materialize dreamt visions of athmospheric and technological singularities.

In Witchcraft, the artists fuse physical and digital elements—melding natural (reality) with supernatural (virtual reality)—to create a compelling dialogue. Spirituality has always be part of the human experience and as we navigate through technology’s omnipresence, it’s important to look outside the box. The ubiquity of the proverbial box, too, can be tricky in digital art because the artists are limited to a single interface. “I think this exhibition is interesting for that,” adds Sassoon, “because it really shows artists that have found really unique and specific ways to work around that, to create bodies of work that are visually very different and very original when you place them in a wider landscape of digital art.” Like all great question-masters who evaluate the fabric of our realities, the magic comes from the creativity within.

Witchcraft opens at Initial Gallery on February 19 and runs until March 21.

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