A massive hand-pumped industrial heart may be making the real heart of LaHave student artist Ada Denil beat just that little bit faster.
Denil, who is in her third year at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University in Halifax, created the modern sculpture, and it has propelled her into a finalist position in NSCAD's 2020 Student Art Awards.
As one of 10 finalists, she has a shot at the $5,000 grand prize and the opportunity to have her art on display as part of the university's permanent collection Otherwise, as will the other nine finalists, she will walk away with $1,000.
Sculpture has become "a real game changer" for her, according to Denil, who has focused mainly on sculpture, drawing and art history in her studies.
"I think of it a lot in terms of drawing: Using lines and negative space to define forms," she told LighthouseNOW in an email.
And she says her favourite material currently is metal. "Welding and bending iron into forms is both empowering and exciting as a process, but also gives the final work a sense of stability and strength."
The sculpture is designed to appear to be powering the vascular system of the NSCAD Port Campus, and is named simply: Vascular System-Port Campus.
"The main body is made of iron rods, bent to describe the form of a human heart. Industrial tarps were used to create the surface between the lines defined by the iron, and bicycle gears are used to describe the exit and entry points for the veins and arteries."
For Denil, "the most exciting elements" of the sculpture are the plastic tubing veins reaching out of the heart and weaving upward into the industrial architecture of the space.
"The Port campus has all these beams, and pipes/air vents, and they are all painted white, so it offered a really fantastic backdrop for this," said Denil.
At the top, the handle of a barrel pump juts out, and the viewer is invited to activate the sculpture. When the pump is activated, red oil moves through the system of veins. After someone walks away, the oil will keep flowing slowly for a time, and eventually it will come to a rest until the next viewer activates it.
"It's about participation and input in our environments. These things are integral to the creation of spaces that we all want to be in, work in, and to make, share and experience art in. Spaces are only truly activated when those who inhabit them meaningfully engage with them. This piece is meant to both anchor and connect the environment (the NSCAD Port Campus in this case). The need for the work to be activated by the viewer is important, as well as the fact that if it is then left untouched it will slowly return to a static state," she explained.
According to Denil, the idea for the sculpture came from a sense of "passion.
"That may sound corny but that's it. It's a plea and a reminder to the other students and to myself: To use this time we have and to use it well, to experiment, to get excited and creative, to push boundaries (mainly our own) and when it comes down to it: To make art. If we want our space to be more inspiring, we need to make that happen... It's really as much a personal reflection as it is a call to action."
Formerly known as the Starfish Student Art Awards, the 2020 NSCAD Student Art Awards recognize and promote exceptional work completed by its students. Each of the 10 nominated works represent a different visual art discipline. The annual Gala event that accompanies the award presentation has been postponed until the autumn due to the COVID-19 disruptions. In the meantime, the university is featuring each finalist on its social media.
"I want to congratulate all of the nominees for the Student Art Awards. Their work is exceptional and inspiring," Dr. Ann-Barbara Graff, NSCAD University's vice-president of academic and research, said in a prepared statement.
"During these trying times, art can help lift us up, bring us together and give us something to look forward to. These 10 artists from NSCAD deserve credit for inspiring us, during a time when we need it most," she added. The other nine finalists are as follows: