Viewing a Jennifer Steinkamp exhibition is like stepping into a dreamscape of swirling trees and cascading flowers. The American artist and professor in UCLA's department of design media arts is a pioneer of 3-D digital installations. And her current show at Hong Kong's Lehmann Maupin gallery doesn't disappoint.
The artist's three animated works depict her fascination with nature. The highlight, Bouquet, is a monumental virtual arrangement of trees with swaying branches and leaves that rustle in a breeze and, in a never-ending cycle, depict the passing of the seasons. Created last year for the American Consulate in Guangzhou, its delicacy is technically astounding and hypnotically beautiful.
Another extraordinary work, Disapore, one of two pieces created for the show, presents a collection of tumbleweed swirling through a flat, white space.
"The piece creates an illusion in the space while the space transforms the piece," explains the artist from her home in Los Angeles. "When you walk through it you disrupt the illusion and weave yourself into the work."
It is this treatment of context that sets Steinkamp's installations apart from other new media. The application of her trademark digital technique within a deeper exploration of architectural space, motion and perception instinctively engages the viewer. "It talks to you in a physical way because it works with space. Your body feels it even though the work has no materiality," she says.
The artist tailors her art to unique settings, from heritage sites to the great outdoors, to create a new appreciation of that environment. A magical forest backdrop created for Valentino's 2010 couture runway stole the show.
The exhibition continues the artist's fascination with trees. "A school teacher once told me I made the best trees," says Steinkamp, laughing. "The first one I made was for a cistern that held water for a palace in Istanbul. It was near a Medusa head so I decided to create an enchanted environment with moving branches like snakes in her hair."
Steinkamp hopes her work could alter a viewer's perception. "It could be like when, after an emotional experience, you feel like you are a different person. I don't know if you can get that from an installation but it is a good goal."
Lehmann Maupin, 407 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, Tuesday-Friday, 10am-7pm, Saturday, 11am-7pm, February 13-March 22. Inquiries: 2530 0025