Between Bild and Built
in: Alexi Worth, Michael Lüthy, Catherine Perret: James Hyde, Paris/Brussels 2005, S. 20-43.
Chapter 3: Medium and Form
For art – and especially the art of modernity – the interplay between medium and form is fundamental. The peculiar potential of art consists in its ability to break open form so as to render its medium apparent. Rather than vanishing within the form (as the letters of a word vanish, or, to take an example from the visual realm, as the photograph vanishes behind the segment of the world it displays), it becomes visible in its proper materiality.
This ability of art to render visible the materials and processes that contribute to form is frequently referred to as art’s self-reflexive dimension. It is a dimension that allows both the starting point and the end point of the medium-form process to be kept in view and hence also what lies between them, namely the process itself. Hyde’s objects seem to stretch out the fleeting moment in which one thing turns into another in a way that is visible and tangible. It is as if it enables us to observe our observation, or better still, to feel our gaze. This is not an experience that exhausts itself but which springs into being forever afresh. One cannot determine when and where the shift will occur in any given work.
At the same time, the transformation process remains reversible. When observing one of these objects solely as aesthetic form, we feel that the materiality of its medium becomes disturbingly apparent, whereas viewing it as a merely material conglomerate causes it immediately to reassert its quality as something thoroughly formed, its character as „picture“. Put another way, the picture is negated by the object’s materiality, while the material is negated by what is pictorial in the object. In this manner we are immediately drawn into the process whereby meaning is constituted. It is only when we regard the separate components as „significant“ to the aesthetic object and begin to combine them on the basis of color, texture or plasticity that something emerges from them.It is not only the forms that emerge from the media that are surprising and unforeseeable in Hyde’s works, but also the respective media themselves. The medium might be a material that we associate with either the artistic or the non-artistic domain: velvet, latex paint, cast glass, a shelf or vinyl. We find everyday forms employed as media, such as the chair, the cushion, the lamp, the photograph. Hyde also puts conventionalized art forms to use as media, such as the fresco, the „shaped canvas“, the mobile. He even treats abstraction as a medium, insofar as abstraction is never the aim of its art, but merely the best available means to a certain end. This gives rise to utterly unfamiliar conjunctions of medium and form, for example of handles and painting, as in the series Handles, or of boundary rail and painting, as in Gate or Clock. Particularly memorable is Powder Blue Loveseat – having unfolded the Loveseat one can sit in the „picture“, having folded it up again, one can hang the „deckchair“ on the wall.
It is a paradoxical process; by producing a form, Hyde also produces a medium. Our attention is drawn not just to the work, but simultaneously to the medium: to the transparency of glass, the viscosity of paint or the brittleness of plastic. In other cases we are made aware of the Baroque nature of the fresco, the silent sensuality of abstraction, or the support provided by the chair. Yet ultimately it is not Hyde’s concern to exhibit material properties. Rather he is interested in exploring the pictorial potential of materials. His objects are concerned with the gaze that perceives materials as „picture“ when shaped and arranged in certain ways, and with the exploration of what makes this transformative gaze possible.
It is this concern that explains the paradoxical status of the medium in Hyde’s work – the fact that the medium is on the one hand recalcitrant and resistant, and on the other, a compliant means of serving the goal of a pictorial effect. The resulting ambivalence cannot be resolved in either direction. „As a painter,“ Hyde has said, „I’m concerned with the processes of how painting is constructed and recognized. I try to keep this narrative legible – making the actions of coating, covering, marking, or folding distinct as gestures so that they are both an action and a description of an action.“
|Chapter 1: A Joyous Science|
|Chapter 2: Painting as the Space Between|
|Chapter 3: Medium and Form|
|Chapter 4: Material or Immaterial?|
|Chapter 5: Modeling|
|Chapter 6: Working Space|
|James Hyde. Between Bild and Built as print version (PDF 2.490 KB)|