A new interview on my new show "Vortextural" at Cooper Cole Gallery. Written by Shellie Zhang. Enjoy!


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Interview with Jen Stark (J.S) by Shellie Zhang (S.Z)

Recognized by their mesmerizing spirals, loud colours, and op-art attributes, Jen Stark’s paper sculptures draws inspiration from an array of natural phenomenons within mathematics, nature, and cosmic space. Her current solo exhibition at the COOPER COLE Gallery demonstrates a continuation of her studies in optical illusions, colour gradations, and paper’s transformative qualities. Through an amalgamation of the visual qualities found in mandalas, topography, botany, and light, Stark’s work seems to uncover the underlying pulse of the universe. By visually mimicking the elements of time, nature, and space, Stark’s sculptural works stand as a testament to unity and oneness within the world. The entrancing installations create an alluring atmosphere between the surreal, fantastical, and psychedelic, ultimately welcoming viewers escape into the technicoloured realm of Stark’s vivid imagination.


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S.Z: Your intricate colour schemes have the ability to appear random and instinctual, while also giving the impression that each hue is meticulously planned out well in advance. In doing so, your work retains a highly psychedelic and hypnotic quality which delves into your audience’s consciousness. Can you talk about your processes with colour and how you managed to find a balance for your work to remain mathematic yet organic?

J.S: My process with color comes from the interest of color in nature and how color is such an attention-grabber….to caution poison in mushrooms, or to reveal a delicious fruit that will spread it’s seed. I love how certain colors look next to each other and attract the viewer’s attention. The exact color schemes are not typically planned out. I usually spontaneously pick colors that I think will look great next to each other and build from there. They balance of mathematics and organic shapes emulates patterns in nature. I love the similarity between microscopic and macroscopic shapes and how even though they are extremely different in size, there is still an underlying shape that seems to construct itself throughout.

S.Z: Although you use 2-dimentional materials, your work reaches a sculptural status which allows it to leap off its surfaces and planes to distort perception. Cosmic Complex seems to rise from the gallery floors and Vortextural is a fantastic title that encapsulates your ability to immerse viewers in a kaleidoscopic dream. You’ve also done larger scale projects such as your mural for the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art. Do you prefer working on large surrealistic interventions or more intimate wormholes?

J.S: I prefer showing my artwork however I can, although I’m a bit more drawn to the sculptures/wormholes in the walls. They just seem to pull the viewer in and leave them mystified. I love them all though.

S.Z: Many of the works in this exhibition possess a pulse-like vibration that leaves viewers in a trance. In particular, Dimension had me captivated for what felt like hours. I’ve read that you are very much inspired by the patterns within nature. Could you elaborate on how repetition and movement play a part in your creative and thinking processes?

J.S: Yes. I have a love for all kinds of optical illusions and things that seem to distort reality in a subtle way. When viewing “Dimension” from one angle, you see a rainbow gradient but once the viewer moves around it, the design suddenly shifts, and they’re looking at an optical black and white pattern. Repetition and movement play a huge role in my creative process. The repetition is similar to how the layers of a plant unfurl and reveal the future layers inside, waiting to grow out. I also love having a tedious process attached to my work, and feeling like I’m piecing it all together to create something amazing.


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S.Z: What were some of the challenges in transferring such a fragile set of works and installing them in COOPER COLE’s gallery space?

J.S: Packing and shipping is a huge challenge of transporting these works. I typically have someone make my most complicated crates for me, and I create the rest. Crating is typically pretty expensive if you get it done professionally, but I like knowing I’m able to do it myself and I’ve learned so much about wood-working & building things because of it. Sheets of foam really help to hold the pieces in place and ensure they don’t move during shipping in the creates. The 2 most complicated pieces to install in COOPER COLE Gallery were the hole-in-the-wall “Vortextural” and “Dimension” — the ring-shaped wormhole that hangs in the air. “Vortextural” took about 3 days to build/install and “Dimension” took about a full day. The rest of the pieces were pretty simple and hung in screws in the wall.

S.Z: I believe that this is your first solo exhibition in Canada. Your works have been especially well received in California and Miami. Could you talk a bit about joining Toronto’s art scene and what you hope to accomplish?

J.S: Yes, this was my first solo show in Toronto. I began working with COOPER COLE Gallery a few years ago. They’ve been a great gallery to work with and I am excited about our future plans. I think Toronto has a great growing art scene and I’m happy to be a part of it. In the future I’d love to do more public art sculptures & large-scale murals as well as exhibit my work in more museums.




*Note: The show is on display till August 10, 2013 at COOPER COLE Gallery, 1161 Dundas Street West. Gallery hours: Tuesday & Wednesday: 1 – 6 p.m. Thursday & Friday: 1 – 7 p.m. Saturday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.