|Essay 1 - Ciarán MacGonigal|
Joby Hickey, artist photographer
The combination of imagery, apparently casual in its observation, the use of surface to obtain a paint-like surface, contre jour treatment of objects in an Impressionistic manner and the technique, the very ancient technique of pinhole images, provide the basis of Joby Hickey’s art as a photographer, and in so many ways I’d prefer to call him an “image maker” rather than just to create the notion of him as a photographer,for the capacity to distill an image as a photographer implies a reliance on a mechanical process rather than a working through from the idea or concept into a “visual” from acceptable to the maker. But in so far as my thoughts are on his photo imagery within that part of his oeuvre I can say that he uses to great effect the very difficulty of pinhole image making which is, that the image becomes diffused owing to the nature of light bending as the process between the pin hole and the surface which is progressively more distant from it’s point of entry; the use of “defraction” to create the opportunity to make his mark or pigment treatment is an important tool, not just figuratively but literally to the artist.
It enables him to utilise all other means of rendering his marks, pigment, fingers, spatulæ, brushes, onto whatever surface, paper cartridge, board, canvas, film, celluloid, or epidiascope to make his image. He turns the known problems of pinhole image projection to his artistic advantage.
If the 19th.century French Impressionists used their new techniques to convey greater emotion and subjectivity in their compositions having in their mind greater emotional ranges than photography, Hickey extracts from what he sees as the emotive/visual subject and gives it another kind of surface energy.
A long and professional relationship to the camera, as well as a very strong art background imbues his own art practice with an holistic approach to things visual.
He knows the risks of defractive qualities in image making so, takes a perspective or view of his subject which engages the eye though not just the choice of subject but the surface treatment of the Image, imbuing them with a visual alchemy or fusion of ideas and techniques to give other than a standard photographic image.
The contre jour use in some of his imagery may also be in part due to growing up with an artist father who had superb graphic as well as painterly skills; I mean that in the sense of knowing instinctually its uses, power and limitations.
Contre jour which emphasises silhouette, shapes against the light, eliminating detail over profile; the sgraffitto-like effect he can obtain from his surface and taking the idea of the Japanese wood block the grainy surface-quality which animates the artist’s images.
In the Iphone age, where everybody is potentially a photographer, or film maker, contributor to YouTube, or facebook, it’s the individuality of the artist’s eye which separates him out from everybody else.
Going from an image projective process known to the Chinese at least as early as the 4th.century B.C. As far back as the 4th century BC, Greeks such as Aristotle and Euclid wrote about naturally-occurring rudimentary pinhole cameras.
It was the 10th-century Arab physicist, astronomer and mathematician, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), who published this idea in the Book of Optics in 1021 AD. When Ibn al-Haytham began experimenting with the camera oscura, he himself stated, Et nos non inventimus ita, "we did not invent this". He improved on the camera after realizing that the smaller the pinhole, the sharper the image (though the less light). He provides the first clear description for construction of a camera obscura. He was credited with being first man to shift physics from a philosophical to an experimental basis.
In the 5th century BC, the Mohist philosopher Mo Jing in ancient China mentioned the effect of an inverted image forming through a pinhole.The image of an inverted Chinese pagoda is mentioned in Duan Chengshi's (d. 863) book Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang written during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Along with experimenting with the pinhole camera and the burning mirror of the ancient Mohists, the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) Chinese scientist Shen Kuo (1031–1095) experimented with camera obscura and was the first to establish geometrical and quantitative attributes for it.
The venetian painters Canaletto and Bellotto used the Camera Obscura in Venice, London and Dresden to great effect. Such was the importance of what Bellotto recorded in Dresden that after the conflagration of World War II, the Bellotto paintings were used to rebuild many of the famous buildings to their known form in the 18th.century.
Where Joby Hickey works in his photographic mediums he employs, of necessity, a narrower visual syntax limited to monochromes or black & white, avoiding the snares and advantages therein of colour. Colour is in a sense prejudicial, by which one means that it anticipates or creates an expectancy of mood or subject.
The monochrome relies on greater compositional and pictorial skills as there is no hiding place for an image within that range, which makes the development by the artist of techniques to create surface, linear and compositional interest of greater interest.
The known fall off in clarity of a projected image and the technical capacity of the pinhole photograph however limited it is more than compensated for by Hickey’s interest in not just the image “per se” but in it’s technical resolution, allowing that the only concrete reality is the imagination of an artist. The physical delivery is the point of contact between the artist and the viewer.
In Joby Hickey’s case, the oddity/uniqueness of his vision which he often skews to obtain its compositional effect and allies to a sense of earlier times, often Edwardian or Victorian and frequently Dublin based gives much of his work its particular charge. But he takes other themes too and his portfolio of images, particularly his architectural forays delight the eye of the viewer, and seem to give their maker much pleasure too.
For a multi faceted artist~visual practitioner with a strong interest in film making, it is a fine thing for me and for any arts viewer to encounter a holistic vision or talent if you will,which distils personal experience allied to a keen and authoritative eye with an omni directional multi faceted lens.