Art Statement | The Evolution of Style
In order to develop a signature approach to painting and photography, Conway-Hyde studied and practised various methods of creation. Up until 1985, he took a technical and figurative approach, studying life drawing and the use of watercolours. He then began an examination of art historical movements from 1985 through 1991. He developed an understanding of contrast and reflection through the use of abstraction in modern art as well as analyzing the conversations of noted Abstract Expressionists and Pop artists such as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons for their expressive and emotional styles.
From these findings, he entered his “Gefrorenes Fenster” or “Frozen Window” period. Here, he developed a minimalist approach to abstraction; in his painting using only three to five colours on a canvas and creating images through 90-degree photography. The development of his critical and philosophical approach to art blossomed from 2000 to 2010 during his time in Oxford. He began to question the physiological and biological motivations behind the human fascination with a work of art. He spent countless hours in Oxford’s Ashmolean and Victoria & Albert Museum, examining their print rooms and impressionist collection, and experimenting with colour theory and contrast in a way that would define his art in years to come.
As Conway-Hyde’s individual artistic style progressed he revisited his roots in the abstract, minimalist, and impressionist styles with an emphasis on the reduction of an image to simplistic lines and intentional use of colour. He translated the elements of abstract expressionism with his growing interest in the colour field painters the pioneered the movement; particularly he noticed the correlation between his work and the use of line and colour in the work of Gene Davis from the American Washington School. What emerged was his distinctive style that understood the art historical lineage of his practice, but denied the gestural and spontaneity of his predecessors. Instead, Conway-Hyde developed an approach dictated by nature, with meticulous intentionality to the abstract images he created, an Abstract Realism. Here, his work becomes the marriage of two juxtaposing elements, the obscurity of abstraction and the true-to-life notions of realism. Sky and seascapes as well as images featuring waves of colour became his predominant subjects; often working from photographs to help guide his abstractions through the light and colours that appeared in nature. His works began to encapsulate what he termed “L’heure bleue”, the momentary conjunction of two opposing forces. He aspired to create a profound visual harmony to accurately capture these ephemeral instances and turned to further developing his understanding of colour.
Developing ‘Colour in its Entirety’
Colour in its Entirety represents the culmination of Conway-Hyde’s findings. This set of theories formulates his artistic philosophy on creating a precise balance of colour based on the perception of colour through the wavelengths of visible light. From his findings, he learned that an individual only needs a small use of the eye to perceive the colour yellow, about 14%, due to its intensity. Yellow is then followed by red requiring 23%, green at 38%, and then blue needing the most with 62%. Additionally, his surveys revealed that there was a similar response to an individual’s favourite colour among female and male participants; blue being the most popular with 35% of women and 57% of men and the least favourite being brown with less than 3% for both. He translated this knowledge into his intentional use of colour within his work to create an ideal, pleasing representation.
Reductionism and the Art of Conway-Hyde
Then, revelation. Conway-Hyde discovered a kindred spirit in the understanding of the human mind in relation to colour. Nobel Laureate, Dr Eric Kandel, an esteemed medical professional in the realm of physiology, psychiatry, and neuroscience published his theories on Reductionism. Conway-Hyde explores these reductionist concepts in regard to the use of smaller components’ ability to increase comprehension and produce more effective responses than larger complex scientific or aesthetic ideas. Conway-Hyde builds upon this through the lens of art historians Ernst Kris and Ernst Gombrich’s psychological approach to understanding the perception of art and pattern. He utilizes this concept to break down the differences in experiencing figurative work to that of abstract pieces. A viewer is more inclined to ascribe individualized meaning to abstract works, as they do not strictly delineate the subject as figurative works do, forcing the eye to draw upon memory which in turn creates an anatomical change in the brain. Conway-Hyde expanded his ideas on the empirical approach to understanding the fascination with art emphasising the role of the viewer. Understanding the beholder of a work of art is an active participant as the unique lives, memories, and preferences of each viewer distil a different set of meanings. His reductionist approach to understanding these cognitive insights, emphasizes abstractions’ ability to elicit imaginative experiences through minimalist means.
Conway-Hyde has been using his art as a catalyst for understanding the relationship between art and science. Kris, Gombrich, and Kandel’s theories have provided a better understanding in regards to viewer experience, memory recognition, and comprehension of the impact of reductionism; filling in the gaps of Conway-Hyde’s continued research.
Constructing The Realm of Abstract Realism
In the end, where does that leave the work of Conway-Hyde? His work and palette have often been likened to Impressionists such as J. M. W. Turner, a glance at his seascapes evokes a colour field of Mark Rothko, and the minimalist lines reminisce on that of Bridget Riley and Gerhard Richter; however, none of these truly encapsulate Conway-Hyde’s distinctive stylings. Conway-Hyde’s work exists in a liminal space. Much like “L’ heure bleue” he works to capture in his art, between these styles of modern art bordering between the abstract and figurative of his subjects. Through evolutions of photography, painting, and even emergences into the realms of mixed media, his work embodies the ebbs and flows of the natural world. In his own take on a reductionist approach, he develops his own style, Abstract Realism, formulating scenes from nature using techniques from abstraction.
Where abstraction has historically simplified, obscured, or convoluted images in order to reimagine the way in which they are perceptive, Conway-Hyde digs deeper into the use of coloured lines, dots, and regions of colour to manipulate a form and minimalize its complexity through the illusion of flattening. In doing so, his depiction of the natural world uses the two-dimensional, geometric, and ordered line to subvert the notion that these elements are somehow unnatural, antiemetic or an abstraction of the real. The work becomes a visual adaptation of the twentieth-century psychological school of thought, the Gestalt Theory. The theory presents that the complexities of the natural world are impossible to capture in their entirety; therefore, a multitude of minuscule elements must come together to form a coherent picture of the whole.
From Gestalt Theory, abstract visual artists have taken to creating simplified representations accentuating the individual parts in order to force the viewer to identify patterns and sequences; allowing the viewer to prescribe meaning to a seemingly random cluster of colours or grouping of lines. Nonetheless, abstraction in modern and contemporary art has come to be defined by individuals such as Damien Hirst with his spot paintings who utilize abstraction techniques to create works that disrupt reality and become perplexing arrangements of miscellaneous components. In Conway-Hyde’s novel approach to balancing figurative representation with abstraction, he challenges the contemporary approaches utilizing his artistic autonomy to ensure no colours in his works are random, all dictated by the scenes from nature they emulate.
In combination with his approach to abstract within the confines of his subject’s reality, he draws on the biological ability to perceive patterns. Stemming from the experimentations conducted by Cambridge University, understanding the ability to perceive patterns through a spot grid, Conway-Hyde engages with the concept that vertical and horizontal patterns are more perceptible to the human eye over those that are diagonal in construction. Through this approach he creates increasingly visually dynamic works that utilize the main four lines of movement, resulting in a new pattern that is easily discernable due to the stimulating vertical and horizontal nature of his wave paintings create.
The works become a journey of visual excitement for the viewer. Conway-Hyde generates colours and thick curved lines creating ripples of colour that are direct representations of reflection, movement, and light. His knowledge of colour theory informs him how to enhance each naturally occurring pigment and maintain a visual balance to each work. Conway-Hyde’s viewers are entranced by the pulsating waves of the meticulously selected colour, evoking the movement of light and sound. Each wave becomes an interpretation of space and time, pulling and pushing at both light and the emotion of the viewer through intentional shifts in energy through the use of warm and cool colours.
He envelopes the viewer with a sense of solace and movement in a transformative celebration of the colour as it appears in nature. Diligent to never overburden or overwhelm the viewer, his works become an interactive experience, evoking catharsis and reflection. Conway-Hyde invites us to embark on his journey of transformation and self-reflection as he reinterprets the world around us, creating a dialogue about the internal and external forces that shape us. We become entangled in the harmonious movements, overcome by unceasing energy as if we are being pulled continuously forward with the lines and colours. A sensation of an ever-present notion of change arises, one that simultaneously exists within the artwork and within our own lives.
RIDING THE WAVE
Observe your emotion,
Coming and going,
Block it – don’t try,
Push it away – don’t try,
Hold on to it,
You are not the feeling,
You don’t need to act,
Name your feeling,
Invite it home for dinner and sit with it.