Now Featuring Tyler Beard
Tyler Beard constructs collages and sculptures through a process of disrupting images, oftentimes blocking or obstructing what we might think of as the point of the photograph, a vista, a postcard-worthy view. But far from frustrating, these interruptions are meant to offer an opportunity for a calm sense of contemplation, a visual dérive where texture and form are nudged into a deliberate, subtle harmony.
MH: I’m interested in the relationship between natural structures (landscapes) your framing of those structures as images, and the man-made structures you use as collage to interrupt the images. (Your project titled Object/Nature speaks to this theme.) Can you talk about your approach to image making in light of these dynamics?
TB: For some time now I have been developing a visual language that I think of as a kind of dimensional formalism. Through this, I am interested in combining found landscape imagery with flat fields of color and shape. The landscape offers a strong feeling of dimensional space while the color and other information relies on a more emotional and abstract sensibility. In the integration of these opposing aesthetics, I look to create compositions that are soothing and simple yet hold a sophistication in which each selected part is necessary to the whole. Through collage I can assemble, reassemble, trim, shape, reshape, and precisely edit to create an arrangement of information that has a push and pull of flat space and dimensional space. This strategy offers a format for the viewer to utilize both an emotional cognition and an experiential thinking in unison.
MH: Can you speak to how you use shape and silhouette in 2D images, and how it relates to your 3D work and the forms those sculptures take? Oftentimes in a 2D context, these forms act as a kind of negative space, while as sculpture they’re the opposite, positive.
TB: In both the 2D and 3D work I think of the silhouette as a portal of sorts. It is a way to specifically frame space and direct the viewer to a particular place. I also find myself considering how landscape imagery can look mildly abstract or present itself as just a texture. In the Geometric Portal series, I begin by cutting out larger images of landscapes and slowing removing parts of information that I am less attracted to. I remove the contrasting colors, deep shadows, etc. to find a shape that is evenly beautiful in its color and composition. This process relies on the size of each shape, the shape itself, the landscape, the landscape color, and its position on the white paper.
MH: Where do you source your photographic images? They have a somewhat-vintage feel, the color quality of old National Geographics, and often picture Nature with a capital N; majestic, remote, awe-inspiring, and calling up notions of the old American west and its associations of purity, wholesomeness and ruggedness. Is that deliberate? Can you talk about it if it is?
TB: I have become very particular in which images/colors I choose and in the quality of how they were originally produced. I find myself most attracted to images that are from a pre-digital technology. New books tend to present clearer information content due to print technology and the quality of current cameras. However, when I look at books from the 1950s to the 1980s, there is a translation or transformation that is presented through film, and the 4-color press technology that was used to produce the images. I find the colors, grain, and overall feeling of these images to be much more rich and exciting. They are soft, painterly, odd and otherworldly. The images present a quality of wonder that feels a bit more vibrant. Also, the images feel more disconnected from the way our brain processes the spaces we travel to and experience. Visually, I think they offer more room for the viewer to contemplate the differences between their current reality and the reality that I am offering through these found images.
MH: How are you deploying maquettes and the notion of mocking-something-up in your practice? Are the maquettes preparatory work, finished work, or both?
TB: The idea of the maquette is a fairly new concept in my practice. I often think of them as being both a finished work and a mock-up of sorts. I have been thinking a lot about how architecture functions through models, blueprints, and sketches. These forms capture a moment in a larger process while also being a completed idea in and of themselves.
I also think they offer a different format for the viewer to inhabit. As a sculpturally minded individual, I enjoy how a maquette offers a different form of viewing. You can see more of the object than would be possible at a larger scale. To go back to architecture, the viewer can see a model of a building and glean angles and holistic view, which is impossible when the building is at full scale. So through this strategy I look to offer yet another part in how we inhabit space and look at it.
MH: You mention hoping to evoke an “emotional cognition” in your viewer. You also mention wanting to create a noticeable gap between the viewer’s normal surroundings and the context, removed via time and technology, where your found images originate. Can you talk about what kind of feelings/emotional states your work deals with or touches on, from your perspective?
TB: I want the work to relax and intrigue the viewer. In each composition I seek a soothing formalism in which each part is necessary for the whole. The work is meticulously edited, arranged then rearranged, until I find an order that is curious and dynamic while maintaining a quality of lightness. I often think of the poetic structure and qualities found in a Haiku. Seeing through the lens of this format, I make individual works that rely on restraint and simplicity while simultaneously offering a subtle and quiet sophistication.
MH: Haiku as an influence makes sense because it’s another pared down form that deals with nature. What are some other art forms that interest you?
TB: Film is a big one for me. I watch a lot of movies and pay attention to the pace of the film, the cinematography, and the music. If I could compare my work to a moment in a film, I recall that the opening scene in Lost in Translation would be fitting. Bill Murray sits in the taxicab calmly looking out the window and taking in the colors of Tokyo. I always liked the way that scene made me feel: adventurous and active, yet relaxed and contemplative.
MH: You talk about committing to a certain process and how, over time, it yields new and surprising work. How did you arrive at your process?
TB: I came to art through the medium of ceramics. It had a great impact in the way I think and solve problems in my studio. Clay taught me about process and experimentation through glaze testing, kiln firings, and using different types of clay. It is also a flexible material that offers a variety of visual aesthetics; you can make an object look dumpy or smooth, elegant or crude. Over time I began to ask what material would be best for a certain idea or aesthetic (color, texture, rigidity, etc.) This question led me to plaster, wood, fabric, paper, and a variety of other materials, which further expanded my practice. However, in the exploration of other materials, I still bring that sensitivity and technical precision which I first discovered through the lens of ceramics.
MH: Can you talk about why natural forms are a way for you to pursue notions of simplicity and formalism? I ask because nature is so messy, although images of nature, which you work with at several degrees of remove, often end up feeling like aesthetic and sensory escape.
TB: Most of the nature-based imagery I use is void of any architecture or man-made elements. I want the information to focus on the color, the texture, and the feeling of being in nature. I find much peace and enjoyment when I am camping or hiking. There is an ease and simplicity — the world seems to quiet itself to offer only a few tasks to consider (eat, fish, build a fire, etc.).
Sometimes nature also seems to be its own kind of formalist; a rock that is placed just the right distance from a tree or the way the clouds meet a mountain range. In all of the information that nature offers, it may seem a bit messy, as you say, but often I see it as an honest, simple beauty: comfortable and sure of itself. Nature often helps me to reboot to prepare for the next set of ideas to explore in the studio.