Nov 21 – Dec 2, 2012
At first sight, you feel as if you have walked into a strange dream set within an illuminated manuscript. The works resemble meticulously detailed religious icons, complete with highly stylized internal frames, gold leaf halos, gothic script, Madonnas and Christ-children, crucifixions, other biblical imagery and religious Renaissance paintings. However, within these beautiful illuminations you find highly realistic computer generated avatars, too much like marble statues and too perfectly rendered to be truly human. Other, even more troubling, computer rendered objects draw the eye: syringes LSD tabs and pills, scattered or wielded or ingested by the figures. Upon further inspection repeated motifs especially in the patterns of fabrics, reveal themes drawn from Alice and Wonderland. The works themselves are made from two different processes, either separately or in tandem; some are made directly from the computer as a giclee print and others as strictly oil paint or oil on transfers. This is John Hoyt’s Safe-Injection/Mystic Pill, which through the tension created by this not so subtle juxtaposition of archaic image-making with modern image making, religion and drugs demands an internal investigation on the part of the viewer of the relationship between the real and the mystical.
The juxtaposition of and blurring between opposing imagery, dimensional forms and creates an oscillation in perception that can evoke in the viewer a groundless feeling of being in both reality and a dream-state (perhaps a trip) or somewhere in between. Concepts and ideologies simultaneously oppose and blend: the three dimensional computer imaging technology with the two dimensional renaissance icon, the blatant religious imagery with the drugs (generally considered immoral by most Christian faiths) and even the traditional oil glazing technique with photographic transfer. By presenting this imagery in conjunction with this evocation of groundlessness in the viewer, Hoyt brings into question issues of human experience of the mystical, of reaching beyond reality to see that which composes the universe. How do we experience spirituality? Through meditation, prayer, drugs? Have we lost connection with spirituality in the face of an increasingly secular, rational and technological world? How do we reconnect with spirituality? Do we cling to age old traditional religion or embrace new age beliefs? Why do we, for those of us who do, feel the need to embrace the spiritual, to find answers beyond those offered by science? Each of us has different paths to find the answer to these questions, each highly personal to ourselves.
Although any use of religious imagery in the service of art –as opposed to the use of art in the service of religion – is generally received as a critique of religion (and doomed to invite hostility from the religious), I would argue Hoyt’s work goes beyond that. It would be easy to simply say that the work likens religious to drug induced escapism from reality, or that it suggests that spiritual encounters of or with God, the Holy Spirit, saints or the devil are simply results of chemical experimentation. However, if the viewer goes beyond their initial knee-jerk resistance to religion or drugs or both, they might see the work as a means to investigate humanity’s relationship with the mystical.