Our true nature is the soul

Our True Nature by E.T.N. Smibert

Runs until October 14

Little Gallery University of Calgary

Yellowed leaves carpet the floor of the Little Gallery. The space is pitch-black except for the dim light emanating from three tents gathered in the centre. The ceiling of the gallery has been transformed into the night sky. A stereo fills the room with nature sounds.

E.T.N. Smibert’s art installation Our True Nature situated in the gallery on the sixth floor of the Art Parkade at the University of Calgary invites contemplation.

“It invites the viewer to listen not just hear” Smibert says. “It questions human relationships with nature and other humans.”

Paul Gauguin’s famous 1897 painting Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? was the inspiration for Our True Nature Smibert’s third solo show. Currently in his fourth year of a visual studies program Smibert has shifted from printmaking to installation.

“It’s your impulse to make so it doesn’t really matter what form it takes” he says. “Mediums can be weaker or stronger some can reinforce your concept which is why I think it’s important to keep trying different mediums because you want your idea to come through as clear as possible.”

Installation art came into vogue in the ’70s and found inspiration in Marcel Duchamp’s use of the ready-made. Installations encourage the viewer to explore the role of art in a new way as the artist often invokes tactile olfactory and auditory senses.

“People assume when they look at a print or a drawing or a painting that it is just something pretty to look at whereas installation captures much more about life” says Smibert.“Everything in my installation is a metaphor. It’s not what the tree looks like it’s how it grows.”

For the artist the process is just as important as the generation of ideas from which the installation is born.

“To acknowledge the process you acknowledge change and you accept change” he says. “By accepting that nature has much more power than me you learn how not to grasp when things start slipping out of your control.”

The meaning of Smibert’s art is inherent in its creation. It’s about discovering the pre-existing meaning rather than arbitrarily attaching significance to it.

“What about the meaning of life?” he says. “All human beings desire happiness and wish to avoid suffering. That is a pretty good place to start before you make or do any action.”