Monday, April 13, 2009

Nik S. Clements Named Artist of Distinction in Inaugural Exhibition of Still Point Art Gallery

The young boy's big dark eyes cast a look over his shoulder toward something that cannot be seen by the viewer. His brow is deeply crossed, his lower lip is set straight across...is it defiance or a pout? His overall demeanor....concern, intense curiosity, rebelliousness? This photo, simply called "Boy," is hard to look away from. The viewer is drawn in to study it, wanting to know the reason for the look on the young boy's face.

"Boy" is one of five photographs by Nik S. Clements that appear in the inaugural exhibition of Still Point Art Gallery. The show is entitled Still Point I. The idea of the show is to explore those things that artists, through their art, hold still.

Nik talks about his art in this statement,
As a young child, I was always fascinated with the idea of trying to find something on this planet that had yet to be touched by human or animal hands. I’d imagine climbing up to the very top of a large oak tree and touching a leaf that had never been touched before. However, there was inevitably a problem with this idea. I began to realize that everything, in one way or another, had actually been touched in some way. Perhaps the tree I was staring up at had been planted by a woman hundreds of years ago and she had cradled the tiny seed in her palm before plunging it deep into the soil. Or perhaps two feisty squirrels had chased one another across the same exact leaf upon which my eyes laid. This, of course, frustrated me to no end. What in this world could be mine and mine alone? Was there anything at all that could be unique to only me? What could I experience that nobody else had?

It wasn’t until I discovered photography that I developed an answer to these questions. Over the years there have been trillions of photographs taken and there is very little, if anything, that hasn’t been photographed before… but nobody sees the world as I do. Nobody experiences the moment that streams in front of my eyes exactly as I do. You and I may take the same exact photograph of a hill on a cloudy, snowy day but your experience with the moment will be different than mine. You stood there; I stood here. Your vision was yours; mine was mine. And so our visions, our experiences, our photographs are completely unique.

In many ways, the only thing we have in this world is our own experience with the moment, right now. We can’t find anything else that hasn’t been physically touched before. There are no trees, no books, no cascading waves of water, no remote islands that haven’t been touched in some way or another. All we have is our ability to see the ever-changing river that flows in front of our eyes. This is all we have… and it’s wonderful. By coming to terms with this fact, our lives become full. Now, let me correct what I had said earlier: As a child, I had in fact been the only one to touch the leaf on the very top of the large oak tree. But I did so with my eyes and my soul, not with my hands. That moment, though long past, was mine and mine alone. Only I saw it. This, to me, is the beauty of photography.
I asked Nik a couple of questions:
Christine Cote: Your statement very much conveys a sense of life experienced as movement or as flow. How does this influence your photography, and how does this sense of life and this experience of photography fit with the idea of the exhibition Still Point I?

Nik Clements: Though I don’t consider myself a religious person, I have always found myself fascinated by Buddhist philosophy. In Buddhism, there is a strong emphasis on “seeing," of being as awake in the moment as one can possibly be. No matter what you do, life is always moving forward; you either move with the flow, or you end up struggling against it. As an artist, I try to truly see and then capture the essence of individual moments as much as possible.
In many ways, I believe the concept of living in the moment and photography go hand-in-hand. When I’m behind the camera, I oftentimes feel that I am seeing the world around me in a much clearer fashion than when I’m not behind the camera. There’s a sense of calm, of stillness, that overrides me, and I begin to feel a strong connection between myself and the world I am capturing on film. This is the reason why I was so intrigued by Still Point I, as I felt the idea behind the exhibition somewhat mirrored my philosophy as an artist.

CC: I believe there is a “sense of other” that comes through your statement. Has your work as an artist been influenced by any spiritual traditions or avenues? If so, in what ways?

NC: Photography is my own personal form of meditation. I’ve never been one to sit on a chair and meditate quietly for half an hour, yet I can spend hours at a time photographing whatever it is that is fascinating me in the moment. After I’m done, I realize I hadn’t had a thought- no worries about finances, no thoughts on what I’m going to make for dinner- just me, my camera, and what I see through my viewfinder.

CC: Thank you Nik for your wonderful thoughts related to the exhibition and for your artistic contribution.

Nik S. Clements earned his BFA in Theater from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA and worked as a professional actor for nearly a decade. When his son Kyan was born in 2005, he was moved to begin documenting his child’s life, honoring the bits and pieces of his everyday existence through photographs. Soon thereafter, in Spring 2006, he was accepted into the Photography program at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA, where he is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in Photography.

Most recently, Nik’s solo show Sekai was on display at both The Walton Gallery in Newtown, PA and GalleryPrint in Hudson, WI. Prior to these solo exhibitions, his photographs were chosen for display at the Biggs Museum of American Art (Dover, DE); the Center of Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, CO); Morpho Gallery (Chicago, IL); Still Point Gallery (Brunswick, ME); Upstream People Gallery (Omaha, NE); Projekt30 (New York, NY); the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (State College, PA); and the 2007 and 2008 San Francisco Spring Show at Academy of Art University. In 2009, he was selected as a finalist in the 29th Annual College Photography Contest and received an Artist of Distinction award from Still Point Gallery for his project Mehoopany. In 2008, he received Honorable Mention in the IPA 2008 Professional Photographer of the Year competition and his project Mehoopany placed 2nd in the Best Portfolio category at the 2008 San Francisco Spring Show. His photographs have been published in Photographer’s Forum’s Best of College Photography 2009, GalleryPrint’s POW, F-Stop Magazine, FILE Magazine and GOMMA magazine, as well as used in several academic textbooks at both Minnesota State University and the Academy of Art University.

Nik currently lives in Newtown, PA with his wife Anitra and son Kyan. They are excited to be expecting another son this summer.

Return to Still Point Art Gallery

Christine Brooks Cote
Still Point Art Gallery
April 13, 2009

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