Gill floats a new idea

Joan Sullivan
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Artist-made berg bits headed for open water before hitting the gallery

Visual artist Will Gill thinks outside the canvas. He seems inspired by a whimsical landscape of simple, even goofy shapes and a bright, vanilla-to-neon palette. His sculptural pieces shoot cloudbursts up to a gallery ceiling or anchor satellites to the floor, while his wall works (which mix paint, collage and wood inlay) pinwheel with big snowflakes and fuse bold patterns of bulbs, stripes and teepees.

Much of his work is big. Really big. It can sit easily in such sizeable spaces as the Art Gallery at The Rooms. But one of Gill's projects for this spring is so big it takes him not only outside the frame, but also outside even the potential confines of that gallery.

Will Gill photographed by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Visual artist Will Gill thinks outside the canvas. He seems inspired by a whimsical landscape of simple, even goofy shapes and a bright, vanilla-to-neon palette. His sculptural pieces shoot cloudbursts up to a gallery ceiling or anchor satellites to the floor, while his wall works (which mix paint, collage and wood inlay) pinwheel with big snowflakes and fuse bold patterns of bulbs, stripes and teepees.

Much of his work is big. Really big. It can sit easily in such sizeable spaces as the Art Gallery at The Rooms. But one of Gill's projects for this spring is so big it takes him not only outside the frame, but also outside even the potential confines of that gallery.

In fact, his muse is something absolutely huge - an iceberg. And this work will expand outside of any single given form, too, being staged as a cross between a site-specific art piece and a performance event, with its media ranging from illuminated carvings to film.

Gill said the idea came to him last year at Black Head beach. "There was an iceberg in, and little bits of it, not growlers or bergy bits even, but little bits of it were floating in. It was such a beautiful thing. And I thought, how can I translate this into something?"

The answer to that question? Create a new berg, and film its undulating path to its final destination.

"I'm making my own very, very small chunks of iceberg out of hollow fibreglass," said Gill. These will be realistically formed but also suggest the influence of both "otherworldly" and human impacts on nature, Gill said.

Sometime this spring, Gill will cast them onto the ocean and visually record their progress ashore.

"It's kind of a new idea for me, working with film, or digital video," said Gill. "I wanted to make a work that combined sculptural forms and movements and housed it in a digital framework."

Gill is working on the ice pieces - he expects to make nine - in his studio. They are about a foot and a half by a foot and a half, "almost like snowballs," and weigh about 10 pounds each.

"They have to be thick and strong but also translucent, because they will have glowsticks inside. I'll launch them into the ocean with a big slingshot, hopefully around dusk. It needs to be around dusk to see the lights, but not too dark to see the balls. And the waves need to be vigourous, but not too vigourous that they'll swamp the pieces.

"They will float on the water, like Japanese lanterns, rolling over the waves. The glowsticks will last about half an hour."

Gill said the trajectory of this quasi-Asian light show is designed to evoke a simple cycle of nature. And this represents in part the very end of a cycle. (For all Gill's playfulness, there is often a tinge of sorrow to his work.)

This event sounds a bit like the "happenings" so popular in the 1960s. "It is almost a performance piece, a public performance," said Gill. "I will have three or four people helping me. And the end result will be a piece of film." And this movie will capture the work from a special vantage point.

"The pieces will almost seem like they are coming down from outer space because I'll launch them over the camera and they'll land 50 or 60 feet out."

They will also be on thin fishing line, not visible to the viewer, which will draw them to the beach (and is also for essential for retrieval, as Gill is determined there will be no pollution from this work).

He will then take the film, which he expects will run between five and 10 minutes, and project it on gallery walls. He hopes to screen it here and will apply to show it in galleries across the country.

Gill expects to conduct this event in another couple of months.

Information on when and where will be posted on his website: www.williamgill.ca.

It's kind of a new idea for me, working with film, or digital video. I wanted to make a work that combined sculptural forms and movements and housed it in a digital framework.

Organizations: The Rooms

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