Nick at Alfred & Beijing

Here’s an update/message from SNCFA alum Nick Geankoplis – with some pictures from his MFA show at Alfred University:

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Hello SNCFA!

Alumnus Nick Geankoplis here, thought it might be a good time to a send quick note about what has transpired since we said our good byes back in 2011.  My MFA experience was exceptional, of course there were moments of cavernous doubt, but I think that is at the core of anything profound or important.  I was lucky to have a diverse faculty and a great group of peers, both of which challenged and supported me.  I had the first show of the year this past April 13th and because I was the first, I got a solo exhibition.  It was the first solo exhibition to utilize both floors of the gallery; I also installed a 5-story sculpture in the stairwell connected to the gallery. Here is a description from a book I just put together of images from the show and my written thesis:

“The Turner gallery presented an installational challenge as well as an opportunity. It is a multi-story arena with complex architectural elements that contain galleries within galleries, thresholds, vantage points and isolated spaces.  The work grew into and out of the space. The sculpture, ceramic objects and video media worked in unison as an instillation, as components of a whole experience informing and compounding one another, begging for a physical reemergence of the work just seen and out of view.”

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I’m working with similar conceptual tissue and strategies as was at SNC but with a deeper understanding that only can come from a multi year acute focus.  I describe them as this in academic vernacular:

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“My work leverages the geological, technological and sociological materiality of clay to examine legacy, codification and decay through the plight of the individual and ubiquity of a society. Utilizing an analogue and binary mash-up, I create installations with ceramic sculpture, video media and a conceptualized version of the print process. These installations are steeped in a geological practice akin to the orogenic cycle and its subsequent phases. My work also possesses newness. Vivid color, high definition resolution and process based gestures imply recent or partially completed steps in a given system.  The ingress of the outer/present and inner/past signals, present a temporal duality with in my installations. This paradoxical dichotomy disrupts our relationship with the scope of time distorting/bending acuity within a space or experience.”

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I have known for a long time that as well being an artist I wanted to teach and to teach at a university or college level.   In December last year I applied for a number of teaching positions in the United States.  I had a few nibbles and one interview but no offers. I continued to apply for positions during my final semester while working on my thesis.  In the end I was approached and offered a position at a program that Alfred University and the Chinese Central Academy of Fine Arts developed in collaboration eight years ago.  It is a Ceramic Design for Industry program at CAFA (Central Academy of Fine Arts) in their School of City Design. It’s an interesting program where the students, all Chinese, are taught with a hybrid model of eastern and western methodologies. It incorporates material knowledge through typical western collegiate studio instruction (making with their own hands), along with conceptual/sculptural problem solving. In their junior year the students start doing market research for utilitarian or domestic items for Chinese consumption. They begin working with ceramic factories in a typical eastern fashion having their designs made by expert craft/tradesmen, ultimately learning to work with someone else’s hands.  The program culminates in a senior thesis exhibition that often takes place at a gallery in the 798 district, the main art area of Beijing.  I am one of three faculties in the program and the only westerner.

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So you are probably asking yourself why the hell did they hire Nick, a ceramic installation artist at a design school?  As I have come to understand, it’s my role to introduce the more obtuse conceptual or sculptural conversations, so that our students can apply this kind of thinking to their making.

Oddly enough there are very few Chinese designers in China designing for Chinese.  The vast majority of the things made in China are designed by foreigners or copied from foreign designs.  These objects in the end have very little cultural significance or value. One of the major goals of our program is to create Chinese ceramic designers and object makers aware of the contemporary art climate but not blind to their rich cultural heritage. That would ultimately create objects that are significance and have a domestic relevance for the immerging modern Chinese Society.

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I’m very excited to be here in Beijing but Incline and SNC will always be near and dear. It seems at the same time so long ago, and like it was just yesterday, that I was on the lake, or in the studio, at the Hacienda or hiking Tamarack.   I sort of understood that when I was there but not really… as the Japanese proverb says “it is always darker beneath the light house”.

Here’s a preview and a link to a book Nick put together for his show:

 

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