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Studio Reflections with Diana Gabriel

We use the notion of scale everyday to relate to the world around us. We use it to judge monetary value, power and physical strength amongst other things. Looking at a miniature can transform our experience into an intimate moment, one where we feel powerful over a minute world. On the other hand, if we are looking at something much larger than us, our bodies and prior interactions of the world in which we exist serve as reference for us to create the new experience. These comparisons are not just about the physical difference in mass or volume, but what they do to our perception, how we process and react to it.

I used to make very large drawings in a spacious studio. Once I moved out of the space, I felt trapped by having to scale down the work. It wasn’t until I fulfilled my desire of making a really big installation, that I was able to scale down the paintings and drawings. I find the process of filling a room with art liberating because it relieves the pressure of being restricted by space.

I was recently invited to make a large installation for The Salon Series Project, where I took over the room and transformed it into a linear haven. Tropisms was an interesting experience. One I relate very much to the “scary” blank canvas experience. I find that regardless of how big and 3-dimentional or small and 2-dimentional the “pictorial” space is, the initial anxiety is essentially the same.

Diana Gabriel installs Tropisms at Flats Studios’ Salon Series. September, 2013. (Image courtesy of the artist)

When making an installation, the amounts of energy, attention, and craft are reconfigured to fit the work. It’s not enough to just scale up the type of mark, brighten up color, or modify value. It’s about creating a new type of mark and assessing it from different angles. While this is something you normally do with a regular sized painting or a drawing, when making an 3D installation, you are making something much larger than you so you have to walk farther, get lower, and stand taller to judge it properly.

You can walk around and exist within the work; you’re a speck of dust within a large drawing or painting. This means that you have to look closer at the lines, at their texture, their thickness, their direction, and where they cross. You have inspect at the spaces in between those lines and the shapes they make. I guess in a way, in a larger work you learn to focus in because things can easily get lost, even if they are right in front of you.

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