Mercy, Encaustic, 48" x 32"
Silvermine Arts Center
Nash Hyon by Jennifer Ouellette*
"Transformation" is the word that springs to mind when viewing the paintings of Nash Hyon. She combines the raw materials of an artist -- paint, paper, graphite -- with a passion for every aspect of human culture, mixing concepts in science and medicine with striking symbolic imagery, thereby transforming them into timeless, emotionally evocative works of art.
Hyon works primarily with encaustics, a historic process of applying molten beeswax to a surface. It is a fitting choice, given the theme of transformation that runs through her paintings. Bees transform natural substances into wax. The wax with the addition of pigment and damar resin becomes encaustic paint. That paint is then transformed through heat, the mind, the hand and the eye of the artist, to create a work that is far more than the sum of its constituent parts. The meticulous process of melting, layering and scraping give Hyon's pieces an almost archaeological feel: there is depth here, and substance, a sense of history, and how even the sharpest remembered experiences gradually fade with the passage of time.
The Elements is a series of abstract portraits of specific chemical elements, weaving in symbolic references to the properties, history, and applications associated with a given element in the periodic table. Chemistry is a most dynamic science, and its elements are always in transition; in Hyon's hands, elemental science transforms into art.
The purple-hued painting "Iodine" plays upon the fact that the name derives from the Greek word for "purple," while the painting "Copper" features a narrow inner border stripe of bright blue-green, evoking the patina that forms on the metal over time. For "Gadolinium," an element used in magnetic resonance imaging, Hyon used an actual brain scan as the base image, layering her encaustics and collage elements over it to produce a haunting, evocative reflection on mortality. She finds a way to connect the physical with the emotional and the personal with the universal that evokes the work of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.
Ultimately, Hyon's work is a celebration of life in all its rich complexity. Her Genome (ATCG) Project is a series of paintings that reflect upon the unique chemistry found in the structure of the genome, taking the inner meaning of DNA and revealing its outer beauty. In her hands, the mapping of the genome becomes a metaphor for ways of knowing, whether it be scientific investigation to unravel Nature's secrets, or the creation of a painting that sheds light on the realm of imagination. Through her paintings, Hyon explores the connections between man, nature, beauty, art and science -- and above all, what it means to be human.
*Jennifer Ouellette is the author of many science related articles and books. One of Nash's favorites is The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse. A painting from The Elements hangs in her home.
Other Publications include:
Waxing Poetic: Encaustic Art in America, Montclair Art Museum
Art and Addiction, John Hopkins University Press
Mercy: The Art of Nash Hyon, The Lancet
The Beauty of Phenomena-Art in the Communication of Science,
National Academy of Sciences
The Elements-Paintings by Nash Hyon, Volume I, self published