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Max Wyse, "Morning Garden," 61 x 61 cm.
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Max Wyse, "Self Portrait," 122 x 122 cm.
Bjornson Kajiwara Gallery, Vancouver
Aug 2 - 31, 2007
By Kimberly Croswell
A self-taught mixed-media artist, Max Wyse’s visual vocabulary draws on pure invention to create his composite animorphs of human, animal and vegetal figures floating freely upon the picture plane. With a new show opening on August 2 at Bjornson Kajiwara Gallery in Vancouver, Wyse will exhibit a new series of works to probe the subconscious and reveal new depths of aesthetic consideration.
Born in Kamloops, B.C., Wyse has exhibited his work in Paris, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, where he currently lives and works. His past work has referenced the artifacts of human culture, such as architecture, war, and commerce. His imagery draws first from an “elemental” human (male) figure or figures, often partial torsos, or heads and arms, which in turn, are connected to various animals, such as mice, pigs, and birds, and various plants.
In works such as Blason (Coat of Arms), Wyse incorporates partial male torsos with distended flower petals framed by a carpenter’s ruler. Two mice peek through the form towards the viewer. In another work, Mudman, an inverted male torso serves as a perch for a contemplative sparrow, which is surrounded by budding tree branches. While the dismembered human figures remind the viewer of death, Wyse’s constructed relationship with the living non-human forms transforms the scene into one of rebirth and renewal.
“This body is receptive in its giving of refuge to minerals, vegetables and animal life, and acts as a vehicle for the passage of human cultures,” the artist says. The result is an aesthetic expression of the ancient give and take of living energy in all its forms. The work reminds us that the human is also animal, and asks the question, “Who exactly is eating who?”
Two significant historical references emerge in Wyse’s art. The first is symbolism, and the second draws from the figurative work of Odilon Redon and Francis Bacon. Both of these artists placed a premium on invention in an attempt to express visual equivalents for emotional realms in human experience. They also frequently keyed their work to the dark side of the human psyche, tapping archetypal symbols, where mythic stories and themes are given new meaning. Wyse’s pictorial nuances reveal a range of emotional sources delving into the realm of archetypes.
Like symbolist art, Wyse’s mixed media images are non-didactic, communicating with the viewer through the relationship between colour, line and form. Aesthetic qualities are combined with overt symbolism to evoke a feeling that might, in turn, find expression in another way. Like Wyse, Bacon and Redon produced images that challenged the viewer’s comfort level with animorphic imagery, but their styles are considerably different. While Bacon and Redon created figures in a spatial environment, Wyse’s imagery floats on top of a bare background.
Wyse leaves his structural elements floating just as freely in space as the other connecting images, and his relationship with the picture plane starts, unexpectedly, with the reverse side of the work. Wyse begins by sanding the back of an acrylic/plexiglass panel and, as a result, must conceptualize his art in reverse. He paints in layers of colours, using pure pigments, crushed in a mortar and pestle, mixed with gel medium. In some cases, to incorporate a sense of weight and movement, he mixes soil into his colours. The final colour, a coat of straight acrylic, may be one of the most crucial and carefully considered elements in this process. By working from foreground to background Wyse attains a transparent and luminous quality in his work that is arrestingly unique.
Represented by: Bjornson Kajiwara Gallery, Vancouver; Galerie Simon Blais, Montreal; Envoy Gallery, New York