“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” - Kurt Koffka, Gestalt psychologist
At first glance, Sheree Hovsepian and Konrad Wyrebek seem to share little in common. Yet, both teeter along a fine line dividing digital interpretation and modern reality, pushing traditional art forms into a contemporary context. While Hovsepian’s three-dimensional sculptural works play with dimension and the human eye by manipulating mediums such as photography, photograms and quotidian objects to create conceptual interpretations, Konrad Wyrebek’s ‘data error’ paintings experiment with extreme pixelation, representing the dissemination and malleability of information through digital and social media and challenging pop culture via abstracted television-, film- and social media-based images. In The Whole Other (8th of May – 6th of June 2015), the gallery becomes a liminal space, its walls blank canvases for the reconsideration and expression of the blurred boundary between chaos and control; to gallery founder and head curator Kristin Hjellegjerde, Hovsepian and Wyrebek’s works “‘smell’ of the new, of the future”.
Sheree Hovsepian’s creativity and vision derive from her fascination with psychologist Kurt Koffka’s Gestalt theory, which states that in the perceptual system, the whole has an independent existence, or reality, separate from its parts. This examination of reality is particularly useful in organizing Hovsepian’s artistic universe. She describes art as a duality, embodying both chaos and control, rather than trying to “make meaning from a world that is as a whole chaotic”. Bringing this thinking into her creative process, her stark images comprise the ‘parts’ mentioned in Gestalt theory: works on paper are photographed, digitally manipulated, and printed as archival dye transfer prints, forming cosmic-like backgrounds onto which are attached other images and commonplace objects such as wood, string and brass nails, and which are inscribed via various mark-making strategies, exploring the merging of artistic chaos and control while physically, visually and thoughtfully expressing a sense of cohesion.
Hovsepian’s materials are multifaceted – they are deliberate and important markers of the presence of the psychology behind her artwork, yet also represent a personal expression of body, time, gesture, and the feminine being – in other words, they comprise the ‘whole’. “I locate myself as an artist in this time and place and what draws me to the materials I employ,” Hovsepian says. “For example, I have recently discovered that for me, the string elements in my work directly relate to the idea of time and memory. There is a correlation with the hand-made and activities like knitting and crochet, which I used to do as a girl with my mother.” Though the elements are highly symbolic and intimate, she declares that for her, it is most crucial for viewers of The Whole Other to simply acknowledge “that it exists” as “something to be regarded, a moment of reverie”.
Konrad Wyrebek’s body of work in The Whole Other is also the result of a complex, distinctive artistic process – one he calls ‘data error’. Wyrebek’s paintings come from “images that are pixelated through a succession of digital compressions with deliberate settings, causing corruption of data in transfer between different software and devices”. He recognises the significant effect that an ‘error’ – whether technical, digital or human – has on our reading of an image or byte of information. His works are therefore “errors of data to start with”: they mimic the transformative nature of communicating news.
To Wyrebek, both the error and the understanding of its impact upon us are cohesive parts in defining The Whole Other. His paintings, and indeed his process, critique the ways in which society reads or interprets mainstream Internet and social media; that is, we often arrive at conclusions that are vastly different than the original, first-hand reports. Wyrebek’s process of achieving a ‘data error’ in his paintings resembles this transfer of news and information from media to society: often beginning with figurative images, similar to those of first-hand accounts, he compresses and manipulates an image’s data until it is abstracted, mirroring the errors society creates as information is generated, streamed, and passed on. The end result is a whole other meaning; ‘factual’ information is subjective, and viewers conceive of and construct their own meanings from this passed-down information, each simultaneous yet divergent. Wyrebek says that, unlike most, he “notice[s] the errors (which normally go unnoticed), bringing them to attention and also questioning the whole big picture”. His series of work, classified as post-internet art, addresses and represents the concepts, ideas, and issues that, like the images he uses as a starting point for his paintings, have been controlled by these ‘data errors’.
The title The Whole Other plays at once a harmonious and distinctive role in each artist’s body of work, visibilising the areas in society that are often overlooked. What fuses their artwork to create “the whole other” is Hovsepian and Wyrebek’s mutual appreciation for the exploration of the undefined world. Neither chooses to follow the path society has drawn in attempt to make sense of what is out of their control; rather, both embrace and enhance the uninhibited experiences reality has to offer. Together, they utilise preconceived norms to overturn and reorganise their internal and external worlds and embody their alter creative universes – laid bare in The Whole Other and understood and experienced distinctively by each participant.