A Look Into Sarah Pupo’s “What is Called Spirit”

(KIAC note: This review was provided by an art-loving volunteer, Kelsey Muldoon. Sarah Pupo’s exhibition closes Friday June 17 at 5pm, come on down before then if you can.)

Upon entering the ODD Gallery, I am immediately drawn to a collection of six watercolour paintings on the back wall; a combination of whimsical shapes and contrasting colours had caught my eye. Sarah Pupo’s exhibit “What is Called Spirit” is an enlightening display of varying materials, colours and emotion.

Standing in the middle of the room, I have a sense of peacefulness while observing Pupo’s work; the tranquility of the colours and fluidity of the art creates a calming atmosphere. Stepping in closer and observing each piece individually, the artist’s emotions and techniques are further revealed.

installation view
Some of the watercolours, and a painting, that propelled the writer through the exhibit.

Looking closely at the works, I can see several different materials in Pupo’s compositions. The majority of her images are on watercolour paper or on stretched silk, in different sizes. Pupo has also included two tablets in her exhibit, to present two animations. Although they are hung without comment among the rest of the pieces, the technology does not interfere with the overall impression because of the animations’ neutral colours and the small scale.

The break from traditional method and materials is apparent throughout. Pupo has used several different materials in creating her work, from watercolour and dye, to gouache and wax. The unpredictability of these materials allows Pupo to experiment with techniques, and create pieces that are often layered and textured. In looking at her work, I can see the imprints of layering and the process of revisiting each piece.

In an email conversation, Pupo says, I like to work with a balance of chance and control, so materials that are a bit unpredictable and have a certain amount of bleed and fluidity to them are ideal.” This gives context for the way she experiments with her materials to access inspiration.

I enjoy the way Pupo’s collection presents a possible notion of spirit, and allows the audience to interpret each piece on their own. Walking through the entire show, I noticed influences of nature and landscapes, and the interaction between nature and humankind. The fluidity of the brushstrokes reminds me of rolling hills, and the colours are comparable to a sunset. This is a common theme for many Canadian artists; however Pupo’s work does not revert to the familiar scenes of our nation’s landscapes, but creates a more abstract image.

The works in “What is Called Spirit” give physical expression to an abstract idea of how one connects with the reflection, or shadow, of an object rather than the concrete object itself.

Kelsey Muldoon received a BA in Communications from Wilfrid Laurier University and is residing in Dawson City for the summer.