Peter Gronquist: Shape Shifter at Unit London

By on January 5, 2019

We are commencing our 2019 programme with ‘Shape Shifter’, a new body of work by American multidisciplinary artist, Peter Gronquist. Gronquist’s practice incorporates painting, sculpture and installation, utilising mediums such as aluminium, ceramic, mirrors and the environment itself.

The seventeen pieces on exhibit survey Gronquist’s most experimental and innovative works to date. Shape Shifter highlights the artist’s continued interest in the emotional potency of colour and temporality of our world, from the objects we produce to the transience of humanity, addressing themes of impermanence, excess and escapism.

The minimalist ‘Colour Field’ paintings form an essential narrative to Gronquist’s exhibition, reflecting a poignant time in the artist’s personal life and subsequent creative output. Once a strictly representational and figurative painter, the death of the artist’s young daughter led to an artistic overhaul, pushing Gronquist to re-evaluate not only his subject matter but entire focus and discipline. Over the past seven years Gronquist has explored emotion through the use of colour, by differing the gradients throughout the pieces the artist is able to create a mesmerising intensity.

Gronquist has gone on to further this effect – a number of works on view embody a corporeal sense of light, appearing to glow, without being lit. Gronquist describes this process akin to a religious experience, allowing an emotional outlet from which the artist can immerse himself.

The ‘Mirror’ works develop the notion of captivation, for both the artist, as creator, and the audience, as viewer. Gronquist uses infinity mirrors as an independent medium, but considers their significance not as an entirety, but instead as a representation of everything we hold dear to be temporary.

The artist believes that infinity as a concept in this context is a fallacy and can only exist in the abstract. As light passes through the impurities in the glass, it loses roughly 7% of its light with each reflection, resulting in the images fading backwards into blackness, or nothingness. Ultimately meaning that the image slowly ceases to exist. By presenting this nihilistic view of the work Gronquist calls the viewer to make a choice: does this mean that everything dies so nothing matters, or, that everything dies so everything matters, and is therefore precious.

The ‘Immortals’ series are Gronquist’s most challenging and diverse works in the exhibition. The pieces further explore the artist’s fascination with and desire to depict notions of temporality. Gronquist takes once recognisable ceramic objects and through a process of extreme temperature changes, reconfigures the banal ornaments, injecting an otherworldly body into the traditional forms. Large amounts of aluminium are melted in a kiln and then poured into ceramic vessels, before being quickly submerged underwater, resulting in an explosion. The aluminium breaks through the ceramic upon encountering the cold water, causing it to expand in a chaotic and indeterminable way, addressing themes of society’s disposable culture, and reclaiming individuality from the readymade.

Gronquist comments – ‘more importantly it exposes the man-made item as weak, and therefore highlights its own temporary nature. It affirms explicitly that our mark on this place is the most temporary of all. The works of man, followed by the elements, and with them the universe, will eventually die’.

Shape Shifter is a re-evaluation of themes that are at once known and unknown, questioning the foundations of 21st Century society in order to uncover the artist’s personal and creative questions. Peter Gronquist has exhibited in galleries and fairs across the globe, most recently at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, and Winston Wachter in Seattle.

We are commencing our 2019 programme with ‘Shape Shifter’, a new body of work by American multidisciplinary artist, Peter Gronquist at Unit London on Thursday 10th January 2019.

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