Stephen Hilyard

“My work deals with the power of ideas and ideals. It identifies our various understandings of the profound as ideals. As ideals they are necessarily unachievable. Never the less we continue to strive for experiences of the impossible profound—such concepts as The Sublime, The Divine, or True Love. For me there’s something tragic in this yearning for unpresentable concepts, maybe even pathetic, but there’s also something heroic in the fact that, in the face of inevitable failure, we continue to live our lives and build our worlds according to these ideals, we continue to believe. Time and again we return to a re-affirmation of the profound. The artist and the mountaineer and the lover all know this.

“I believe that the key to understanding the inevitable frustration of our impulse towards the profound is the essentially subjective nature of all experience, even the most apparently profound and absolute. This underlying subtext of an internalized world model leads me to create work that aspires to the condition of a perfect simulation, without fully achieving it—subtle clues as the synthetic nature of the final product must remain. In this I have found the computer to be a particularly appropriate tool for art making. My interest in digital media remains focused on its ever growing capabilities to simulate the world around us, not as it is—but as we wish it to be. The subsequent undermining of traditional concepts of the reality and reliability are at the center of my work.

“Ultimately, my work is designed to remind the viewer that she is in the presence of artifice—that this work is attempting to present something of a profound nature, but that it is failing because of its connections to the concrete. In this the viewer might recognize her own condition.”

Stephen holds an M.F.A from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA). He is a Professor of Digital Arts at the University of Wisconsin Madison where he specializes in teaching 3D digital modeling and animation. Hilyard creates artwork in a wide range of media both digital and traditional, and his work has been exhibited internationally, including galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, Perth, Sydney and London. Stephen’s practice has been supported by grants and fellowships from The Huntington Library, The Harpo Foundation, The American Scandinavian Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Wisconsin Arts Board and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

 

MOUNTAIN series

Installation view of lightboxes

Installation view of lightboxes

MOUNTAIN 1 2013, transparency in lightbox, 53 x 38 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

MOUNTAIN 2 2013, transparency in lightbox, 53 x 38 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

MOUNTAIN 3 2013, transparency in lightbox, 53 x 38 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

MOUNTAIN 4 2013, transparency in lightbox, 53 x 38 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

MOUNTAIN 5 2013, transparency in lightbox, 53 x 38 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

SERIES INFO

This series of five digital images of generic mountains was generated from photographs of lava cone formations in Iceland. The images have been manipulated to render the mountain forms perfectly symmetrical for part of their height. These are not images of particular mountains, but diagrams of the concept “Mountain” realized as iconic conical forms. It has been exhibited at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (Madison, WI), and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (Winona, MN). 

 

RAPTURE OF THE DEEP series

JOHN, EIGER DIRECT 1966 2009, transparency in lightbox, 54 x 29 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

MICK, EVEREST SW FACE, 1975 2009, transparency in lightbox, 53 x 38 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

 

AL, K2 ABRUZZI RIDGE, 1986 2009, transparency in lightbox, 44 x 34 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

 

DOUGAL, LEYSIN 1977 2009, transparency in lightbox, 44 x 29.5 inches,
edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

IAN, ANNAPURNA SOUTH FACE 1970 2009, transparency in lightbox,
53.3 x 38 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

 

PETE, EVEREST NE RIDGE 1982 2009, inkjet print on panel, 56.7 x 29.5 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

JOE, EVEREST NE RIDGE 1982 2009, inkjet print on panel, 53.6 x 29.5 inches, edition of 5, contact Platform for pricing

 
Installation view of lightbox

Installation view of lightbox

SERIES INFO

Rapture of the Deep consists of eight large prints of digitally manipulated landscape images. The series deals with the glamour of risk as personified by eight famous British mountaineers from the 70s and 80s, a golden age of high altitude mountaineering which made many of them national media figures. Growing up, these men were the artist’s heroes—and they all died in the mountains. Each piece in the series is named for one of them, along with the location of his death. 

“It seems clear to me that there is some kind of connection between what drives climbers to pursue their sport and the concept of the sublime, when beauty and danger converge to create the profound. At the same time I believe that the sublime is in some sense a dream, an ideal that may be conceived but never truly realized. From my own experience I know how often the banal details of the quotidian world intervene when ever it seems near, and yet it remains in the mind and it is capable of driving the mountaineer to extremes, even to his death.”

The images in this series are of constructed landscapes, ideals that never existed, at least not precisely as they are presented. In the tradition of landscape painting the foreground of each image includes a single figure of a mountaineer complete with 1970s era costume and equipment. Over the course of the series the mountaineer descends ever deeper into what seems to be some kind of nether world of blue caves and canyons. These images were created from photographs made of underwater landscapes at Silfra, a unique location in Iceland. The fact that the original photographs were taken under water in some of the clearest and coldest water on earth creates subtly modulated lighting. All other clues to the origins of the images have been removed, for instance in most images the surface of the water above has been replaced with clouds photographed elsewhere in Iceland.

“For this project I chose to conflate two wilderness sports, mountaineering and diving. They share many fundamental characteristics, they both combine elements of exploration, risk and solitude, together with some kind of quest for beauty. While it is true the mountaineer and the diver experience landscapes of hallucinatory beauty, it is also true that both of them are slowly dying every second that they are too high or too deep.”