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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hugo Heyrman

Lady of the Desert, ca. 1995, Hugo Heyrman
Copyright, Jim Lane
Computer Self-portrait, 1976, Jim Lane,
the first computer-generated self-portrait.
If you want to be rich and famous in art (or in other areas, for that matter) one of the best ways is to be the first (or one of the first) do do something. Theoretically that's true though in practice, it's sometimes more problematical. The attention paid to such individuals varies in direct proportion to how important their "first" might be. For instance, I claim to be the first artist to paint a self-portrait based upon a computer printout. I'm neither rich nor famous so my "first" must not have been very important, (or I need to hire a publicist). Thomas Kinkade was the first to paint really sappy, nostalgic, highly-sentimental, good-ole-days landscapes for backward-looking conservative Republicans not concerned with wasting energy by keeping a light burning from every window in the house. That was important--he became rich and famous--the self-proclaimed "Painter of Light." Of course, every landscape painter paints light so his fame may have more to do with PR than paint.
Dr. Hugo Heyrman
That's also probably the case with the Belgian painter, Hugo Heyrman. If anyone deserves fame and fortune it's an artist not only adept at painting, but film-making, video, sculpture, Internet art, and synesthesia (a word he coined himself for pulling together all of the above). It would seem to have a lot more meaning than the dubious distinction, "Painter of Light." Heyrman is a "new media" researcher, and as for his first and foremost "first," he is credited with having created the first digital art around 1995. That sounds, at first, to be rather recent, but keep in mind, before that, when I was playing around with computer images around 1976, they were still using typewriter punctuation and symbols to create pictures. Heyrman got into pixels. He even created a sculpture, Lady of the Desert, around  1995 using pixels, then built (or had built) the real thing using painted concrete blocks, erected out in the Mojave Desert (as the title suggests) some 120 miles north of Las Vegas. It's interesting especially in that it demonstrates just how far digital art has come in less than twenty years.
RealityXL--2008, Hugo Heyrman
Belgiƫlei, (detail) police force at horse,
1975, The Monograph cover of Joannes
Kesenne's book on Heyrman.
Heyrman was born in 1942. If you want to be a famous artist, a healthy degree of intelligence is a formidable asset. Heyrman's is undoubtedly in the "genius" range. Though he's studied everything from painting to nuclear physics, his PhD is in art sciences, magna cum laude from the Universidad de La Laguna, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands). His thesis was on computer art and the transition to digital imaging. During the 1960s, Dr. Heyrman was a "happening" artist (conceptual and performance art). During the 70s, he turned to video art dealing with ecological themes. Later, Heyrman returned to his painting roots, then began to mix the two (synesthesia) while in the 1990s he pioneered digital art, trading his brushes for a mouse. Yet, he still paints, his canvases melding the "zooming" qualities of digital art with his earlier concerns with urban life and the modern-day body language governing it.
Snowing, 2008, Dr. Hugo Heyrman
Unlike so many artists now and in the past, Heyrman starts with the idea or theme--the message. Then he draws from his vast toolbox of technical skills in virtually every communicative medium, that which would work best in conveying his message. His work is the very definition of Postmodern--drawing from the past, mixing media generously, making a point, contributing to contemporary discussion without hogging the conversation or overwhelming the viewer. He never clobbers the viewer with shock schlock. His work is subtle (almost to a fault), sometimes lighthearted, yet thought-provoking, without rudely soaring miles over the heads of his intended audience. Whether painting, sculpting, "videoing" or digitizing, Heyrman's work is not wall art. It's not very decorative, usually not even pretty or attractive. One might call him an art scientist--a researcher bent on exploring the interrelationships of thoughts, media, and technology. Oh, and he's even become rich and famous as a result (both being relative terms).

Why--City Life & Body Language, 2007, Dr. Hugo Heyrman


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