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Art as Ecstasy

Three disarming and mesmerizing installations at DiverseWorks

Lauhakaikul, a native of Thailand and a professor of sculpture at the University of Texas since 1977, uses the charcoal for its soft, refined shape that evokes both pillows and atomic clusters. Charcoal, a form of raw energy, is always in a state of flux. The quietly powerful installation serves to reconcile the nightmarish trauma of nuclear war, its indelible scars on the land and on the human psyche. Peering into the coffin's mirrored interior, we see ourselves as part of the environment, connecting with everything, continuing forever. Accordingly, Lauhakaikul treats both sound and time as spatial entities with interdependent physical presences. For him, the creative process is cathartic, a means to represent a memorial lament and a healing energy.

Although Margo Sawyer is also concerned with nature as subject, vehicle and source for inspiration, the sublime qualities inherent in her work have more to do with the properties of art itself. Her breathtaking assemblage of tonalities, geometric forms and richly sensuous surfaces moves the viewer to elevated states of being. Vessels is effective on an emotional level as well as a formal one; the union of these two elements -- feeling and intellect -- creates a sense of nobility, of past and present relationships. Raised in England and Africa, a graduate of Yale University, a former resident of India and currently chairman of UT's sculpture department, Sawyer investigates scientific and aesthetic venues that explore the evanescence of matter.

Vessels transforms the gallery into a sacred landscape, alluding to lost cultures and distant lands. Blue chalk lines evocative of tantric drawings form a labyrinthine system upon which Sawyer has strategically placed brass and steel dishes, much like coordinates of a map. One walks around the elliptic configuration in a process of continuous reassessment and perceptual contradictions. Sawyer approaches her art as a dialogue between creator and viewer representative of a holistic working order. Vessels lays before the viewer a complex field of sensuous elements, analogous to conducting a religious ceremony on sacred ground.

It's just this sort of otherworldliness that encourages the notion of duality in her work: the pull between the concrete and the illusory, the tactile and optical, the physical and the immaterial. At times, the gold objects and forms seem dropped to the ground from some constellation, their aureoles mediators between the iridescent blue shapes drawn on the gallery floor and the surrounding space. Their luminous surfaces invite touch, while the granular fragility (and vulnerability) of the blue ellipse and its inner labyrinth prohibits physical contact. Vessels exists as a hybrid of place and atmosphere, a dialectical experience in which the viewer is engaged as an integral entity amid the intermingling realms of poetry and science.

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