…That was new pleasure — the ideal, Dim, vanities of dreams by night – And dimmer nothings which were real -(Shadows – and a more shadowy light!) Parted upon their misty wings, And, so, confusedly, became Thine image, and – a name – a name!… –excerpt from Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlan, 1829
The title of Diana Shpungin’s solo exhibition Nothings, refers to the term as both the standard use meaning as an inconsequential conversation, an informal exchange of ideas and/or an expression of affection as well as “Nothing(s)” as that which can be readily overlooked and their meaning obscured or not immediately obvious.
In the selection of works for this exhibition, Shpungin chose to pair several understated drawings, sculptures and hand-drawn animations that rely on her minimalist aesthetic and conceptual framework. Examining themes of memory, failure, longing and loss, Shpungin’s artwork employs a painstaking process while seeking empathy across identity lines. The works on exhibit function in relationship to one another as well as individual entities, whereas their inconspicuous nature is purposeful, in that the gesture of the idea and the obsessive methods to get there was a meditative and somewhat masochistic proposition.
Concerned with beauty as a sublime idea rather than as a straightforward formal element, the sentimental both seduces and repels. However, that duality has become a necessary element in Shpungin’s work, always looking for a balance between form and content, superstition and logic, science and the sentimental and the poetic and the rational.
The use of graphite pencil as an elemental tool, both permanent and denoting erasure, is the foundation to Shpungin’s practice. While an obsessive language of materials and techniques has been developed based on her late surgeon fathers methods both in medicine and in domestic life. Sculpture functions as drawing and vice versa, meticulously coating objects with graphite pencil as if they removed themselves from the two dimensional plane and into our bodily space providing an ever greater intimacy and physicality with the object itself. Many of the drawings are further used to create animation works, “purposely failed animations”, or “moving stills”.
Ultimately, all these methods maintain a peculiar sense of longing, –the subject matter may directly address this, a formal sensibility of tension may be employed or longing can be implied by way of a self-imposed conceptual failure, –often having a purposeful yet ambiguous sense of incompletion.