Sy Hackney – Dripwork (review)
Instead of employing tools and brushes, the artist invokes the physical world to guide the paint, which breaks free of its usually unequivocal role as intermediary between the mind of the artist and his canvas. Whilst by tipping and tilting the canvas the artist can coax, encourage and gently manipulate, ultimately it is the paint itself, as it dribbles and seeps, which decides how to behave. Paint is no longer an inert, inorganic substance to be exploited, transformed and brought to life through the organic, animated interpretations of an artist’s world. Rather, it is the paint itself that is organic. By taking sovereignty from the hands and offering it to the physical substance of the work, the artist allows the pieces to assume their own identities, redefining the relationship between art and artist. The trickling of the paint, like the trickling of a stream, is visceral and autonomous – and whilst both are seduced by gravity, as the stream defiantly etches its own landscape, so the paint paints its own canvas.
A finished piece of Dripwork somehow denotes order, organisation and uniformity, although a closer inspection reveals the reality of the chaotic, frenzied insurgence of the paint against its former restraints. The works remain animated and vivacious, even in their stock-still state of dryness. Although ordained to remain forever static – permanently frozen – they have an uncanny appearance of being simply on “pause” – press “play”, and the fossilized paint will come back to life, continuing to ooze in all directions and growing along the walls and ceilings, like vines in a jungle. This perception of life – raw, lush, and teeming, is transparent to anybody who beholds these canvases.
The intricate landscape of a Dripwork canvas plays with and teases the eyes, tapping into their inherent propensity to seek out shapes and structures upon which to focus. Its seemingly infinite depth forces the eyes into a state of instability; of continued adjustment and readjustment, in which they are unable to settle upon one focal point and thus repeatedly shift focus to the different ‘distances’ of different quadrilaterals, at different depths in the lattice. There is a desire to reach out and touch – to trace the lines with the fingers, to feel the ridges, to run the knuckles over the waxy crossroads where one drip meets another.
The work is carried out against a backdrop of unique social situation. The artist lives in a communal Arts centre in East London, (The 491 Gallery) the doors of which are always open, providing a non-stop refuge for a myriad of different people and personalities, all of whom are offered appreciation, and time and space in which to experiment with their own diverse art forms, ranging from music to yoga to photography. However, a communal space such as this, completely void of social prejudice, makes for rather intense living conditions, and privacy is scarce. This is echoed in the work, which, by providing creative relief from the non-stop influx of people and their abstractions, absorbs and then resonates with a sense of this exceptional lifestyle.
Sy Hackney’s Dripwork captures something about the enterprise of life in all its ambiguity, which somehow, on canvas, is translated into simple, coherent and lucid terms. It is not until, upon looking away and back to ‘reality’, that the overwhelming obscurity of existence comes flooding back.
Emily Rose Eastop.