During a recent visit to Jaanika’s light filled studio in Berlin, Jaanika recalled growing up in Tallinn, Estonia and how as a young girl, she used to dream of becoming a professional figure skater. She loved the feeling of gliding over the ice and the crisp cutting sounds the blades made as she jumped and turned with each landing and take off. Emerging into Jaanika’s Kreuzberg studio that warm, sunny day definitely had a similar cooling effect perhaps akin to entering an empty skating rink just recently cleaned. The forms she shapes from translucent mylar appear like shards and elegantly cut strips of ice curving or dangling on and off the walls. As we looked at the different configurations of the forms as well as the drawing projections, Jaanika talked about the material of the vellum and mylar paper as embodying this memory of ice and the elegance and purity she associates with a wintry landscape she is so familiar with.
Prior to her one year sabbatical in Berlin this past 2013/14, her work was mostly about the line; the line as a drawing mechanism that translated her physical gestural movements into marks and collections of curvilinear lines. As a former dancer and figure skater, it is not surprising that Jaanika’s drawing practice is equally about installation and performance as much as it is about the final materialization of these gestures and marks on paper.
This current work in her studio seems to be a coming together of her past work that was mainly driven by the line and now an evolution that is a combination of performance, sculpture, video, audio and drawing. What excites me most about Jaanika’s work is how she uses various sources of light to affect the paper in conjunction with the line as it becomes more and more integrated into the form and not necessarily as texture, but as volume. This past September 2013, I had the pleasure of curating Jaanika’s work at a unique window venue that functioned as a stage. The parameters were limited in size and visibility in that the artwork could only occupy the approximately 7′ by 5′ stage and could only be viewed by the public from outside on the sidewalk. Using the existing track lighting, Jaanika took advantage of this mini theatre of sorts and installed a visually stunning work that lit up the entire street at night. Cascades of mylar were hung from a bar and rolled out towards the glass window. She created a frozen waterfall and hence inspired the title “Falls of Solitude”. Which leads to the allusion of emotion in these seemingly detached sculptural abstractions.
Moving around her studio Jaanika spoke of each piece as if she were telling a story. She talked about one particular red pencil that was gifted to her by her architect father in law before he passed away. A series of small works were sparked by this red pencil. While some may identify this kind of decision making intuitive – drawn to it by that personal connection and history, her action of purposely using it to begin a drawing, or to end one, is very intentionally specific to the kind of line she ultimately makes thus grounding her work in conceptualism. It is the subtley of bridging two or three realms that is most comforting in experiencing her work. There is a joy and somber quality that alludes to something brewing underneath. It occupies a wall, a piece of floor or the ceiling in just that right moment lingering in your mind with pain, relief, beauty — while in that same instance exhalting formalism in a very conspicuous way.
I can’t speak to Jaanika’s performance as I have not seen any yet unfortunately, however it seems clear to me from her studio practice that her ideas are constantly germinating and evolving in a path that endeavors to be ephemeral. The addition of projecting video images onto floating paper drawings is mesmerizing and truly makes sense for this direction. She is also experimenting with audio. Her husband, musican and professor David Rothenberg has been influential to this part of her work. He teaches Philosophy and Electronic Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and they have already done some collaborations in the recent past.
The rigor and discipline Jaanika learned early on as a young figure skater in training continues through her practice as an artist. After leaving Berlin this summer, she immediately begins a residency in Brooklyn, NY through the Artist Pension Trust/Berlin Collective studios for the month of September 2014.
To keep up with Jaanika and all her upcoming events and exhibitions, please go to her website at www.jaanikapeerna.net
During her 2013/14 year in Berlin, Jaanika participated in the following solo exhibitions:
“I make drawings, videos and installations. My elements are line and light; my materials are pencils, vellum and video camera. I am a vessel gathering subtle and rapturous processes in nature, using the experiences and impulses to make my work. I record mist turning into water. I use slowly changing lights to cast shadows of mylar strips onto a wall—The slowness of shadows makes one wonder if there is any change at all. I let wind move my body so that it leaves traces on paper. I swim through thousands of layers of gray air and mark each one down. Most of my work is born in the solitude of my studio. Sometimes public performances with musicians and dancers draw me out from the safe silence of my space and expand my drawing practice with sound and movement. I am interested in the never-ending process of becoming with no story, no beginning, no end—just the current moment in flux.”
— Jaanika Peerna