Book of Wonders

Another Chapter:

New work by John Hylton at Piante

Storytelling and narrative have long been critical components of John Hylton's creative process and art. His new exhibition of sculptural, mixed media pieces, "Book of Wonders," promises to continue the tale.

Hylton, a voracious reader of astrophysics and mythology, typically finds inspiration for his work in the intermingling of the celestial and the scientific. For his new work, the initial creative trigger came from contemporary fiction. "This bunch of work started off with me reading Salman Rushdie books," Hylton explained. He was drawn to Rushdie's magic realism and his portrayal of genie-like figures called jinns. "I realized I hadn't read about genies since I was a kid." Curiosity led him to the 14th century Arabic text, Book of Wonders. There he found a mix of astronomy, astrology, and the supernatural—excellent fodder for new work. "It seemed perfect to keep telling stories about the stars," Hylton said.

The resulting works illustrate cosmic events and various mythologies. Materials range from paint on canvas to ceramics, hand-tied fishing net, and tree branches. Small wall pieces, telling the stories of the constellations Corvus, Corona Borealis, and Cygnus, incorporate carved birds and quotations by Ovid, Apollonius Rhodius, and Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. Large paintings serve as backdrops or settings for installations, some including life-size figures. These figures (Hylton refers to them as "characters") interact with the paintings. By connecting the space traditionally reserved for artwork (the wall) with the space traditionally reserved for the viewer (the floor) Hylton erases the dividing line between the real and the imagined, creating an experience that feels very much like reading Rushdie's magic realism.

For Hylton, direct interpretation is less important than the overall experience of the work. "I see my story in the pieces, but it's open enough to let the viewer come up with their own story," he said. "I provide the jumping off point. People can continue the journey themselves."

PIANTE Gallery 2017