Jaanika Peerna's Sensory Explorations: Light, Line, and the Body

Photo Credit: Etienne Frassart

Photo Credit: Etienne Frassart

Light Matters at Kentler International Drawing Space

For this exhibition, in which dense clusters of vertical lines predominate, a singular performative act, itself a wonder to behold, precedes each piece. This whole-body gesture, which is enacted repeatedly for each work, begins with a clearing: First the artist must undergo a kind of self-emptying, lest the discursive noise of the mind interfere. Above all, openness to the vicissitudes of the present is crucial. Thus prepared, Peerna gathers a fistful of pencils in both hands and stands before a large sheet of Mylar temporarily affixed to a hard surface. Then, extending her arms to their terminal length and pushing her pencil tips against the Mylar, she snaps her body down to the floor in one swift stroke. Essentially an act of freefall leavened by friction, the movement produces a bold graphic streak that cannot be attributed to the artist’s agency alone. Rather, it is the artist in intimate contact with both her materials and the force of gravity that is its source.

Just as Peerna is both an active and passive agent in the creation of her work, so too is her signature material. Mylar’s chief characteristic is its translucency, but Peerna’s Mylar, being slightly frosted, is semi-opaque. Its sheets resemble diaphanous rectangles of cloudy ice, velvety white yet still penetrable by light. At once strong and flexible, capable of flight yet ever subject to the downward pull of gravity and above all exquisitely responsive to ambient conditions, artist and material alike are both vehicle and vessel.

—Taney Roniger is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn and the Catskills.

Photo Credit: Thomas Wilson

About the Artist
Jaanika Peerna is an Estonian-born artist living and working primarily in New York since 1998 as well as in Berlin and Tallinn. Her work encompasses drawing, video, installation and performance, often dealing with the theme of transitions in light, air, water and other natural phenomena. She is often involved in collaborative projects working with designers, dancers and musicians. She has exhibited her work extensively in the entire New York metropolitan area as well as in Berlin, Paris, Tallinn, Helsinki, Venice, Rome, Dubai, Sydney, and Moscow. Her work is in numerous private collections in the US and Europe and was recently acquired by Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris. Her work is represented in the United States by ARC Fine Art in Connecticut, M Contemporary in Sydney, and Galerie Ulf Larsson in Cologne. For more on her work see her website at http://www.jaanikapeerna.net/. To watch video performances of Jaanika Peerna, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT2GRZTCeIs