Aki Charland ’19 Expresses Satire and Spontaneity In Sculptures and Installations

In the middle of a normal art class, inspiration suddenly struck Aki Charland ’19. After sawing off a two-by-four-inch block of wood on a whim, Charland marked the sides of the block with dots as if it were a dice. When thrown, the cuboid block would almost always land on its two widest sides, acting as an extremely unbalanced dice. As the finishing touch of his piece, Charland wrote its title with a black marker on masking tape and stuck it directly onto the wood.

“The kids in my class really liked it. It’s sort of funny; it’s kind of an icon of what I do. I just think it’s ironic that I didn’t sit down and think really hard, like ‘how can I make something [simple and] really funny?’ It just happened subconsciously, and I like it a lot. I think it’s a good representation of the rest of the stuff I do,” said Charland.

According to Charland, he was initially drawn to art as a child rather than being more academically inclined. He primarily works with sculptures and installations.

“[Art is] a way to express yourself however you want, whether that be painting [or, as] I do more, installation or sculpture. I think it’s a good way for other people to relate to you without reading or hearing [anything],” said Charland.

While he does not aim for humor in all his pieces, Charland often takes on a light-hearted approach to his artistic work. Inspired by artists such as Tom Sachs, who uses satire to convey serious themes, Charland occasionally incorporates humorous elements into his work.

Sam Yoon ’19, a friend of Charland’s, said, “I really like [Aki’s artwork]. I think it really represents his character really well. It’s a little bit funny, but a lot of structure, a lot of simple lines. I think that it really reflects who he is — his personality. It might seem very abstract and loosely placed, but everything is very intentional. He puts a lot of consideration in his work, and I think it’s very respectable.”

At Andover, the wide pool of resources available has helped Charland to improve his critical thinking and analysis skills in an artistic context. According to Charland, he has developed a better understanding of conceptual work and created a greater sense of cohesion in his own art after taking a diverse range of art classes, such as curating and architecture.

“Before Andover, I didn’t have an aesthetic to my work. Here, I figured out that my work is more concept-driven. Working from a concept and then having that concept materialize, my work has become more consistent in terms of aesthetics, just because I figured out where I was working from. [My aesthetic comes from] working with found objects; I work with a lot of wood and industrial objects. The color palette is brown, maybe blue and a white or translucent, clear [color],” said Charland.

In Charland’s perspective, his creative process is mostly spontaneous, both in terms of inspiration and motivation. While drawing is not his preferred medium, he fills sketchbooks with illustration of his ideas for future reference.

“[For sketchbook work], I value quantity over quality, so I just fill them up; as they fill, you get good ideas. You can go to your old sketchbooks and look for ideas there. If you’re just constantly thinking about the world in terms of what you want to make out of your art, you won’t run out of ideas. If you’re constantly creating ideas, you can keep turning back to them, combining them and modifying them. [The creative process] is just always thinking about [art] and always writing down things that you observe,” said Charland.

Besides being a platform for self-expression, Charland finds art to be a medium for connecting with like-minded people. Through a shared passion, Charland has formed many close bonds with other art students.

“I went to Rhode Island School of Design [RISD] last summer for six weeks, and I did printmaking there. I’m still really close with my roommates in RISD. All three of us really loved art, really just enjoyed sharing that love with each other. [At Andover] I’ve made a lot of friends because they were into art or [because] they were in an art class. That kind of connection with art is a strong bond,” said Charland.

Currently taking Art-600 Advanced Studio Art, Charland is working on creating a studio space, which involves treating the art studio as the artwork itself. It is based on the idea that one can learn many details about the artist just from seeing their studio.

“Conceptually, I’d say that Aki is pushing himself a lot more than he used to. We’re taking Art-600 together [now], the portfolio class, [and] I’ve seen him progress [in] his work,” said Yoon. “Now he’s working side-to-side with concept[s] and his artwork. [He has been] progressing as an artist conceptually, and his work, physically, has gotten a lot better too.”