Steel, stone and bone

By Andréa Rojas

Scientific knowledge and childlike wonder aren’t mutually exclusive, especially when they’re combined by artist Luke Lukasewich into the pieces that will comprise his upcoming gallery exhibition, the aptly titled “Renewal.”

The collection, to be unveiled at Calgary’s Axis Contemporary Art gallery this week, is characterized by eclecticism and experimentation, incorporating diverse pieces everywhere from metal sculptures of feathers to robots made from discarded light fixtures.

“I’ve always experimented. Since I was very young, I always experimented with material.

“My expression is always changing. It’s just working out ideas in different materials.”

The Alberta College of Art and Design-educated sculptor describes his most recent collection as reminiscent of the Art Nouveau and the later Art Deco movements, with an interesting twist ­­– all of his creations are made from recycled materials.

“I’m using the prefix ‘re-‘ — renew, recycle, re-paint, rejuvenate — all these processes I go through,” says Lukasewich of the title of his forthcoming exhibition.

The longtime Alberta resident operates out of a studio named “Steel, Stone and Bone” (after his three preferred media) near downtown Cochrane, which also happens to be nestled next to the source of the physical material for his creations.

“The store next door is a recycle store, and I get all the old lamps, brass and metal, and I’m saving them to make stuff. It’s called Reno Heaven, and you donate stuff you don’t want that you’re recycling from renovation, and then other people come in and buy it at a discount, and the money goes to Habitat for Humanity.”

“These are made from lamps, overhead fans and chandeliers,” says Lukasewich of his creations.

Lukasewich’s work primarily derives its inspiration from a number of diverse elements from the artist’s own personal history.

“When I was younger I was studying geometry and working with line and illusion,” says Lukasewich. “For years I built dinosaur skeletons, [but] two million bones and twenty years later, I was done with dinosaurs. So about a year and a half ago, I started to go away from geometric line and get inspiration from nature and science fiction and just make some stuff [and] have fun.”

Lukasewich finds artistic freedom in no longer having to create sculptures true to a specific predetermined form. The artistic works in Lukasewich’s diverse collection now transform the symmetry of human-made objects into representations of nature and whimsical inventions alike, primarily using the elements of line and space.

“[I’m] using existing material to make a structure, to make a 3-D form. It’s just drawing — I’m drawing in space. I built houses for 15 years and I loved the structure [and] the skeletal framing of a house, and that’s what all this is — it’s framing.”

Despite its eclecticism, however, the sculptor’s most recent collection is far from miscellaneous. Lukasewich views the creation of his art as a problem-solving process as opposed to a pursuit of the aesthetically pleasing.

“I set up a project or a problem for myself. [The collection’s focal piece] is a tricycle and it’s recumbent. I call [it] my ‘rest cycle’ or ‘Light Speed’ because I’m using lamp parts. I lay down and pedal. And that was my problem to solve. For [another piece], it was to make a cycle for two people. I set a problem and go in a direction to solve it,” explains Lukasewich.

“Mixed media is just what I want to express or a problem I want to solve.”

With future projects ranging from transforming an abandoned wheelchair into a Roman chariot to experimenting with coloured glass, the strength of Lukasewich’s art is in its freedom of form and lack of commitment to any particular artistic style.

“Using the things people cast off and making new things — it’s great, it’s an inspiration.”

When asked if his work weaves together any common creative theme, Lukasewich says “No. It’s just all new stuff, a new direction. Each piece leads into the next one

. . . it’s a creative process.”

“The key word is ‘fun’. “

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