Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Donna Nadeem, Contributor

If you walk  by Centre[3] for Print and Media Arts (173 James St. North), you will no longer be able to peek through the gallery’s front window at the usual art. Instead, you will see a black curtain and green leaves, setting the atmosphere for the forest that has grown inside. 

From Sept. 5 to Oct. 3, Andrew O’Connor, a Hamilton-based multi-disciplinary artist, is exhibiting his sculptural, audiovisual installation, “Lost Illusions” — transporting visitors to Hamilton’s surrounding forests.

O’Connor is a Hamilton-based artist, VJ and designer whose work explores and blends light, video, 2D mixed media, animation and interactive installations. O’Connor completed his undergrad at McMaster University in 2012 with a double major in multimedia and studio arts. O’Connor has exhibited in Europe, the United States and around Canada and is a confounding member of  HAVN (26 Barton St. East).

“Lost Illusions” is about the moments of tranquility and solitude that resonate when being truly present with the natural landscape. Blending layers of painted surfaces infused with projected light, shadow and movement, the scenery elicits an introspective, meditative quality influenced from experiences of walking through moonlit trees under the midnight sky,” said O’Connor.

 The exhibition was made possible with the support of the Ontario Arts Council’s Media Artist Creation Project grant. O’Connor’s core idea was to blend projection lighting with painting. Unsure of what the final form would take, but focusing on site specifics, he knew that he wanted his artwork to change the entire ambience of a room and influence how a person felt when they walked in.

“The whole idea was that I wanted to capture that peace and tranquility that you can feel when you’re immersed in nature. When you’re away from all the distractions of society, the technological distractions . . . all the fears and anxieties when they melt away, you’re at peace. That was something that I definitely wanted to convey above all. It doesn’t matter to me what people see specifically, it’s more about what emotions that people are feeling from it,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor experimented with a variety of different materials to be the foundation of his work. He tried acetate, but found that it ripped too easily when being transported. After much trial and error, the artist landed on dura-lar, a polyester film that is a mix between mylar and acetate. 

O’Connor started with six stencil drawings that he created while hiking around local Hamilton forests. The artist scanned them into his computer, digitally cleaned them up and applied them to create the basis of “Lost Illusions”. 

“One idea that stuck out for me was . . . I remember I would just film stuff as I was biking through woods. I started filming the treetops as I’m biking through woods and I would look at those video clips and that sort of imagery stuck with me . . . A lot of it are just closeups of trees with the sun shining through and gusts of wind blowing the leaves,” said O’Connor.

Although the video component was vital to O’Connor’s piece, something was missing. He realized that audio can immerse an audience and add depth to artwork.

“Given my background with VJing, I did a bunch of recording sessions of myself using a MIDI controller fading in and out, activating certain effects on the video clips as I’m listening to the composition, taking those recording and splicing together the best bits,” said O’Connor.

The still art and projections amalgamate to enchant the viewer, transporting them directly into the heart of Mother Nature without the pressures of the outside world.

“If students want an escape from whatever’s happening in their life, the exhibition has a very entrancing affect on you if you give it the chance. As students, we can be extremely stressed with our studies, but this piece is an entrancing piece, it’s a sense of escapism from the stresses and anxieties of your life,” said O’Connor.

“Lost Illusions” is on display at Centre[3] for Print and Media Arts at 173 James Street North until October 3, 2019.

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