Corey Helford Gallery is proud to premiere Swiss artist Zoé Byland ’s newest solo show, In the Presence of the Past, opening Saturday,July28in GalleryTwo .This is her first solo exhibition with the gallery. In 20 new black and white paintings, Byland explores the dance of influence that the past has on shaping the present, and the present has on reframing our memories.
Working with acrylic and airbrush on canvas, Byland’s paintings are steeped in the aesthetics of film noir, vintage photography, graphic novels and even super-heroes, with many of her characters shrouded in an aura of secrecy or actual disguise. All of her works have in some ways melded elements of traditional and contemporary art into works that are both classical and subcultural. With In the Presence of the Past, she’s exploring the way our society’s pre-occupation with nostalgia is coloring (or in the case of her work, grayscaling) our perceptions of the present.
“In my paintings I want to create moments that elude time and space, in which history and the present day are blended together,” says Byland. “We are always in the presence of the past. It always accompanies or surrounds us as a fluid dimension that flows into our present and mixes up our future. And while our memories affect our present choices and further alter the future, the past stays a place that we can’t return to. The past only exists in a selective, staged form, altered by memory.”
As we recreate old narratives, visuals and media in the present, these new works are altered and colored by the elements of what we’re currently experiencing, with symbols and aesthetics taking on a new life even as they can clearly hail from a long-gone era. “I combine elements that fit with the underlying atmosphere of the image I’m creating. I don’t deliberately choose symbols to convey a specific message, that part is up to the viewer,” explains Byland. “What I love about symbolism is that it can carry a story by speaking to deeper levels of perception and emotion, like dreams or fairy tales do.
An image can be read in a variety of ways and I don't want to limit this spectrum of interpretation by applying specific meaning. Just like a good story, for me, a good painting needs an atmosphere that draws you in and defines the genre in which the narrative is taking place. I want to create a certain suspenseful, dreamlike and tense atmosphere in my paintings. In addition to a carefully crafted formal framework, drama and mise-en scène play a role as well.”