Tom Drakulich - Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition
Tom Drakulich creates 2 distinct bodies of work for his Master’s thesis exhibition. The show consists of matte black ceramic vessels and large white wax and dye “paintings.”
Each series appears as an opposing force of light and dark, dimensionality and flat surface leading to a powerful dialogue between the use of negative/positive space, live and inanimate, object and void.
In the center of the main gallery space is a grouping of ceramic pieces vaguely reminiscent of Roman veristic busts, like an abstracted crowd, interacting. The viewer is drawn into their relationship with each other, unsettled, watching and circling. Each piece begins its life as a large thrown pot which is then collapsed, built on to, moulded, crushed, punched out and rebuilt and blackened with boot polish. Traditionally ceramic vessels are spoken of in a language that denotes the human form, each vessel has a lip, a neck, a body, which can have suffered bloating, reaches bone dry, and has tools like the kidney used to finish a thrown pot. A vessel holds liquid or food and reminds of the similarity to the human body, their life sustaining functions and symbolic attributes from ancient times.
Throughout the works in both series, Drakulich has played with creation, destruction and recreation. There are elements of the abject in the works but Drakulich does not intend his works to be read as abject, nor does he see them as making any social comment. He describes himself as actively working with the action and response of the clay while building the object, and looking for abstracted figuration in the process. A kind of intimacy develops between the artist and the object, the objects themselves and the object and its viewer. Drakulich aims for the viewer to find as many ways to relate to the pieces as possible.
In two of the gallery spaces, large almost human scale vessels stand isolated in the darkened rooms. The viewer must negotiate the space around these pieces and interact with each piece, whether from fear of bumping into the presence or the disturbing feeling of humanness that each holds. Each ceramic vessel has a physicality that is anthropomorphically human and yet disrupted, elements of the human body exist and yet are flawed, existing randomly within the form. These pieces are constructed as large freestanding vessel objects, with a wink towards British standing stones.
Juxtaposed around the vessels are the white wax and dye paintings, which are composed of layers and layers of paint and wax followed by a process of scratching back and removal to expose fragments of the underpainting. Tom spoke of his original goal which was to talk about “intimacy” through these works. He disclosed that he had earlier in the process painted subversive “kind of dirty narrative stories” on the panels only to cover them with wax and lose any relationship to what was underneath. He speaks of being “fired up about the absurdity of a complete narrative that you are never going to know anything about”
There is an intense physicality and a sweet romanticism countered by a feeling of tragedy evoked by distortions and disruption of the expected in all of Tom’s works. Each contains a search and an obscuration, a conceal and partial reveal that calls for repeated viewing. The wax and dye pieces have scratch marks, almost a scarification as the wax moves and rolls like a skin over the surface. The marks hint at figuration and varying intensities of line give the impression of drawings and yet there is no representational element that the viewer can grasp and hold on to. The works are definitively abstract and become white negative spaces for the marks to exist in. Again these pieces refer obliquely to humanness, to corpse-like skin, they have a textural quality with scars and scarification on the works that sometimes look brutal and bloody and other times like delicate drawing, folds in skin or marks of the passage of time. The active and emotive line work rushes the viewer around the work suggesting figuration but never allowing a possible respite or representational key.
I found the exhibition to be a monumental leap from the Midway show, Tom has developed his own distinct “voice” and created an exhibition of charged atmosphere that disturbs, excites and questions.
“To All of the Things We will Never Not Remember Again” exhibition is at Student Galleries South in the Jot Travis gallery at the University of Nevada, Reno until May 4th.
By Frances Melhop