Michelle Hegyi's superb sense of spatial balance on display at the WSG
Illustrating the principle that an artful passion can arise from the coolest of mediums, Michelle Hegyi’s “Wild Forest” manages to encapsulate both passion and discipline in a further consolidation of aesthetic strategy.
This is the fifth time I’ve caught Hegyi’s art in her WSG context. There was a streak of exhibits—June 2006’s “The shape of the Sky”; August 2008’s “Gardens of Love and Fire”; August 2010’s “Do You Remember the Shape of Trees…”; and November 2012’s “How the Day Changes with the Light”—where it was possible to chart Hegyi’s growth transitioning from old school printmaking to digital printmaking.
It’s been a privilege to see her work advancing technologically even as she consolidated her print expertise. It’s equally good to note that she’s still as restless in her study as she is in her craft.
In this instance—and working happily in the juncture between abstraction and representation—Hegyi continues to craft a hybrid computer-based painting where her abstraction is comingled with her inspiration.
As Hegyi tells us in an explanation of her technique, “Much of my work is created by hand on the computer, but has the look and feel of real paint. I paint directly on the computer using a tablet and pressure-sensitive pen. I’ve recently also done more painting on the pressure sensitive Apple Pencil. I then may pull individual paint strokes from work I’ve created with real paint scanning the work into the computer line."
As she continues, “I may go through literally hundreds of iterations, as I painstakingly use the computer to adjust the composition, amount of transparency and opacity in each layer, the sharpness and the depth, and the light and the brightness and saturation and hue of each of the colors.”
“I print the piece myself (on archival cotton or Japanese paper),” concludes Hegyi, “to be sure I’m getting the desired colors. The pieces on Japanese papers are infused with encaustic medium, and the verso is painted white giving the piece a unique luminous quality.”
This is a time-intensive effort, but it does have one benefit that’s been a hallmark of her aesthetic: The resultant art seems to float on her working surface. And this is not a bad side benefit for an artistry that began, as she tells us “from a bottle of wine” she and her husband “shared in (Tuscany’s) Val d’Orcia last November — Bosco Selvatico—or “Wild Forest”—a metaphor for the everyday journey through life, beginning to end, year to year, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.”
What’s most amazing about Hegyi’s latest work is that it indeed reflects a sort of wistful (as she says in her statement) “beginning to end, year to year, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.” For as in her previous WSG iterations, Hegyi’s art continues to balance on a most delicate pivot interlacing her abstraction through her preoccupation with nature (with the stray photographic image anchoring some compositions) while she assembles her imagery through a concerted employment of “transparency and opacity.”
Her initial inspiration, “Wild Forest No. 1,” finds Hegyi working through four compositional planes, efficiently layering abstraction upon abstraction of pigment ink on rag paper where each layer of imagery lends integrity to the internal tension of its plane. Thus the work’s foreground plane features a series of leaves revealing themselves through an opaque field that threatens to smother the vegetation. Yet the retroceding planes feature a series of striated vertical lines that weave from level to receding level linking the work together as a whole.
Using a different strategy—with works with encaustic, acrylic, and pigment ink on Japanese paper—finds her crafting alternative perspectives of the same view through the use of her pigments.
A welcome reprise of “How the Day Changes with the Light, No. 28, state 2” is a hearty receding tornado of rich purple curvilinear background lines that are contrasted against an abstract cloud cover of orange and pink that in turn has been scraped by a series of swipes on the composition’s foreground.
By contrast, “How the Day Changes with the Light, No. 28, state 3’s” cloud cover is a rich purple that more closely matches the background curvilinear swirls while also accenting the striated foreground swipe. These works bear the same compositional elements, but Hegyi’s shift of mood as articulated though her pigments tells everything we want to know about how she sees the day change with the light she observes.
Another artwork that stands out in this compact 15 work exhibition, “Wild Forest No. 14,” is a pigment on paper masterwork that finds Hegyi using a photographic representation to great effect in contrast to her dominate abstraction. Featuring a delicate stand of trees set in her composition as a shadowy foreground to her otherwise familiar squiggles of striated line and a single ribbon of purple wafting across the photograph, she manages to hold the print together through her superb sense of spatial balance.
The trees’ recession in “Wild forest, No. 14” substitutes for the sophisticated geometry in the other works on display in this exhibit and the fact that she’s using a photograph in the center of this work makes the diaphanous quality of the photograph that much more dramatic. In a display marked by state-of-the-art technique, this stand is a wild forest, indeed.
John Carlos Cantú has written on our community's visual arts in a number of different periodicals.
WSG Gallery: “Michelle Hegyi: Wild Forest” will run through April 29, 2017. WSG Gallery is located at 306 S. Main St. Exhibit hours are Tuesday-Wednesday, noon–6 pm; Thursday, noon to 9 pm; Friday and Saturday, noon-10 pm; and Sunday, noon–5 pm. For information, call 734-761-2287.