Brilliant On-Site piece fills GreenHill

by Rebecca Harrelson

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Jonathan Brilliant’s On-Site installation has been on display in GreenHill Gallery since mid June.

Brilliant’s entire installation is composed of 70,000 wooden coffee stir sticks, and 6,500 coffee sleeves.

The main work itself is guided around the row of columns that sections off space within the gallery. The Greensboro piece is part of a series of works by Brilliant entitled “Have Sticks Will Travel: World Tour,” described as a “marathon series of site-specific installations” completed in the last year and a half at 13 locations.

The movement of the main work flows so effortlessly through the gallery that it is remarkable to learn the entire installation is held together by tension. The coffee sleeves are stacked within themselves adding a snake-like rail to the artwork.

Brilliants’ inspiration in using repurposed coffeehouse utensils is not because he is a coffee enthusiast but because he was centering an entire work of art on a natural environment. That “natural” environment chosen was a coffee shop.

“This project began in 2005 with the idea that I wanted to be a British installation artist,” Brilliant said of the inspiration for the work. “In my summation these British installation artists used materials from their natural environment, gathered them, and assembled through hand process and manipulation large scale sculptures and arrangements.”

Through the passing years the project has evolved yet the same current runs throughout. The materials on display are new, and were obtained from the manufacturer for the purpose of creating this particular work. “The show is less about coffee and more about those materials we would touch with our hands in a modern coffee shop,” Brilliant said.

Brilliant explained the silent feedback the GreenHill architecture gave him. “The three most dominant features of the GreenHill gallery are the historic moulding, the row of columns and the overwhelming amount of eyelets and hardware left behind in the gallery ceiling,” he said. “Using these elements as a jumping off point I conceived of this installation as a response to the Greenhill gallery” Edie Carpenter, the curator at GreenHill, commissioned Brilliant to create this work. “Brilliant has developed a specific construction technique that allows him to create airy woven walls of wooden sticks held together uniquely by tension and compression; meandering suspended paper pipes; and target-shaped geometric wall reliefs that evoke manufactured reiterations of Jasper Johns paintings,” Carpenter said.

Brilliant does not have a stationary studio, meaning whenever he is asked to create pieces he does so within the space the piece will be displayed.

Brilliant explains the process saying, “This method of working allows me to directly engage with the space and create a specific sculptural response to the gallery. The goal always being to use the gallery as the studio for the creation of the work.”

Curious to the emotional attachment involved in the installation and deconstruction process Brilliant sheds light on the procedure.

“By the time I arrive somewhere to begin installing I am no longer attached to the work. By the time I finish installing and documenting I am on to the next project and feel no attachment to the physical construction. I have no part in the deinstallation of the work. I only request that the hosting venues find a future reuse for the materials. The shows can be mulched, given away or donated to school programs. Sometimes the materials are given to me and I will fold them into future installations. Over the years many venues have found creative solutions for the de-installation.”

GreenHill will be showcasing this exhibit until August 26, when there will be a deconstruction party. Those in attendance can help dismantle the thousands of coffee stir sticks and even take sections of the work home with them. !


Want to go? Greenhill is located at 200 North Davie Street, in the Greensboro Cultural Center. Learn more at jonathan-brilliant-on-site