Creating inside the box

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First Posted: 3/4/2014

To look at a rectangle is to see something simple: four straight lines, connected in the same way, just in different sizes. However, artist Ryan Hnat sees so much more than that and will reveal his vision through his “Plane Space” exhibit at the AfA Gallery in Scranton, set to open Friday, March 7.

Hnat is a young artist whose talents have allowed him to exhibit throughout Pennsylvania and gained him recognition with the Young Artist of Pennsylvania Award by the Anita Shaplosky Foundation in Jim Thorpe in 2007. This is his fifth solo exhibit in seven years.

“It’s going to be very exciting,” he said. “It’s really all about a simple shape: a rectangle. The rectangle is the most man-made shape that there is. You can’t find a rectangle in nature. You might get lucky picking up a rock or something, but it’s a very man-made structure and acts as a structure point in my paintings. When you’re looking at them, it can serve as a structure that holds something up, something that censors something else. The rectangle turns more into a plane that I was using to divide things, cut across things, go into the paintings, come out of the paintings, and I just kept on changing and building.”

Hnat said he is “all over the place right now” as far as what medium he works in, and that eclectic nature will shine through in “Plane Space.”

“In my show, you’re going to see oil paintings, acrylic paintings, drawings, and also work in digital media,” he listed.

Sculptures will also be abundant in the exhibit.

“The sculptures not as colorful as the paintings; all the sculptures are built out of building materials,” Hnat noted.

This comes out of his experience in purchasing a home last year and working on it.

“Working with all these materials, fixing the house up, these sculptures just came out, and they work very well with paintings. It’s interesting because the colors might not match, you might think at first there’s two different artists present, but when you dig deeper, it comes through,” he explained.

“As all the works come together, I’m really starting to see this whole new area where I can keep going deeper and deeper down the same path; it doesn’t matter if it’s through painting or sculpture.”

“Plane Space” is certainly not an overnight accomplishment.

“This is an epic project,” Hnat said. “The work on the show has been going on for over a year, and I’m estimating about 40 to 50 pieces in it, some as big as 38 inches tall and 80-some inches wide, and some as small as 8-by-10s.”

Finding inspiration to procure all the pieces was a snap, as what Hnat finds inspiring is present at all times: people.

“Just seeing how people operate and move around,” he said. “That’s inspiring.

“As far as this exhibit is concerned… rectangles are the basis of so much; how the house is built, what shape our cars are, it all comes down to that. How people move and maneuver around these objects gets me excited.”

The exhibit opening serves a duel purpose, as Hnat will simultaneously release the publication “Watch Towers and Portals,” a book he co-wrote and illustrated with his wife Amy.

“The book is something we’ve been working on for two years,” he said. “It focuses on earth works, making sculptures out of things from earth. The whole idea behind the book is that we wanted to inspire more people around this area to go out and play in the dirt. This book is a documentary of what we’ve done over the last two years, how things have changed and developed; it shows the places we’ve gone and is a journal of our excursions out into the wilderness.”

He hopes that those who come to see the works can take something away from them.

“I hope people leave this exhibit with an appreciation for creativity and the actual making of the pieces. A lot of the artwork in the book and in the gallery… it’s my entire life. It’s my time, my experiences, laid onto a canvas and I’m just bringing it to the public.”