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Member Spotlight I Jaanika Peerna

Monday, May 01, 2023 10:32 AM | Anonymous


May 1,2023

This week we recognize  Jaanika Peerna, and her drawing, installation, and performance practice for over twenty years.

"I create drawings, installations and situations. My elements are line and water; my materials pencils, vellum and time. I am a vessel gathering subtle and rapturous processes in nature, using experiences and impulses to make my work. I capture ice turning into water. I let gravity of the melting ice dissolve drawn lines. I swim through thousands of layers of gray air and mark each one down. Some of my work is born in the solitude of my studio. But often participatory performances, such as my "Glacier Elegies" project, draw me out from the safe silence of my studio and expand my practice with sound, movement, and chance. With these public performances I make a space for people to co-create and then witness collectively the loss of what has just been created—not unlike humankind who is currently witnessing the loss of vast amounts of glacial ice. The question I ask to the audience often is: What would you do if you were handed the last piece of natural ice on Earth?”

click images for more info

"Whether in her large-scale gesture drawings on Mylar that become expansive installations, her smaller sculptural pieces that become receptacles for delicate inscriptions of light, or her videos and performances, at the core of Peerna’s work is a concern for the embodied, sensorially engaged subject in dynamic relation to the spatial and material world. By drawing attention to the evanescent experiential qualities of light, shadow, and movement, Peerna’s work operates with the subtle force of a slowly rising tide – first by awakening the senses, and then, gradually, by delivering insights only a mind deeply in touch with its body is prepared to receive." Taney Roniger, catalog essay, Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn, NY, January 2015

Peerna’s work has always been fueled by the forces of nature but since 2017 the artist has taken on more specific approach to address the climate breakdown we are all surrounded with. Ever since she was a little girl dreaming of becoming an Olympic figure skater, ice has been close and dear to her: its toughness, transparency, beauty as well as fragility. As we are witnessing a massive and furious melting speed of glaciers in polar regions these past decades Peerna has been looking for ways to face the facts, heal the soul as well as act an an artist in order to help slow the destruction down.

Her Glacier Elegy projects (above) consist of exhibition-size installations and live drawing performances where at first a large drawing is made with audience participation and then melted with blocks of ice. The audience is included in a collective experience of creating something only to be literally melted away by the end of the performance. The project has had a strong impact on the participants in diverse communities and locations where Peerna has performed.

Much of Jaanika Peerna's recent work is a lament to glaciers and natural ice. Her ongoing project Glacier Elegy forms the central core of her monograph (below). The book presents an in-depth look at this iconic work, through essays, images of works and performances, and the artist's own words. In doing so, it shows how a contemporary artist in her prime addresses the climate emergency. The book touches on ecological grief and looks at how Peerna and other key contemporary artists have used the subject of ice to highlight the global climate emergency.

Jaanika Peerna is an Estonian-born artist and educator living and working in New York since 1998. Her work encompasses drawing, installation, and performance, often dealing with the theme of transitions in light, air, water and other natural phenomena. For her performances she often involves the audience in participatory reflection on the current climate meltdown. Her art practice stems from the corporeal experience of our existence and reaches towards enhanced awareness of the fragility, interconnectedness and wonder of all life. She has exhibited her work and performed extensively in the entire New York metropolitan area as well as in Berlin, Paris, Tallinn, Barcelona, Venice, Moscow, Dubai, Sydney, Canberra, Montreal, and Cologne. Her work is in numerous private collections in the USA and Europe and is part of the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris. Her performance Glacier Elegy was recently acquired by the Glyn Vivian Museum in the UK. Her work is represented by JHB Gallery and ARC Fine Art in the US, HAUS Galerii in Estonia and IdeelART globally. She was awarded the FID Grand Prize in 2016 for her work in drawing, and she was a teaching artist at the Dia Art Foundation for many years. Her new monograph Glacier Elegies was published in 2021 by Terra Nova Press and distributed by MIT Press. www.jaanikapeerna.net

Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Jaanika Peerna, Sizzlecolor, 2005, digital print, 24 x 24 inches; Light Matter, 2015, solo exhibition at Kentler International Drawing Space, New York, photo by Etienne Rossard; ReRouted Flight, 2020, audience activiated wall installation with instructions, about 6 x 10 fee, at Tallinn Art Hall, Estonia; Glacier Elegy Brooklyn, performance with a block of ice in a public park, October 2020; Glacier Elegies monograph published 2021; portrait of the artist.

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