I’ve known Hyland Mather (thelostobject) for many years and we’ve done quite a large number of creative projects together. Beyond the fact that I have always loved Hyland’s, Andenken Gallery, and I admire his own creating styles as an artist, I can also say with confidence that we are good friends. As part of the ongoing project, The Jaunt, I sent Hyland off to Haifa, Israel. Tonight an exhibition to showcase the Jaunt Forma sculptures that Hyland made in honor of that trip will be on display at the famed Amsterdam local The Garage . This is the one time that all of these sculptures will be on display before they ship out to their new homes for the collectors who supported the trip. I caught up with Hyland in advance of the show to talk a bit about this and a bit about that.
Jeroen Smeets: For your Jaunt trip, you’ve travelled to Haifa, Israel. I’m very interested to hear what expectations you had for this place and how they matched your actual experiences there?
Hyland Mather: Well, basically, when you asked me if I wanted to go on a Jaunt and to where, we first joked about sending me to Chernobyl, both of us thinking that it would be a zany place to collect the raw materials. Careful consideration though put us both off the idea, and so then we talked about some other ideas.
I had just had Unga and Tant over for Unga’s solo show at Andenken Gallery ‘You Will Die Today’, and Unga and his girlfriend, the writer Charlotte Jansen, told me I should come and visit them in Haifa. So, the real reason was those guys, and the expectation was that everyone in Israel was going to be as beautiful as they are . What I found when I actually got there, is that yes, the people I met were amazing. Additional expectations…I expected to see war around me, but mostly I just saw uniforms instead, whew. I expected to feel culture shock, I instead felt cultural awakening. I expected that there would be history, I did not expect the deepness of it though. The depth of time. There is a quote from Thomas Mann’s epic saga, Joseph and His Brothers, it’s in the opening chapter, called Descent Into Hell, Mann writes, ‘Very deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless?’ I was reminded of this quote, and in fact this book several times during my visit to Haifa.
JS: I actually met some Israeli people from Haifa on vacation in Portugal, even they knew that the Broken Fingaz crew kind of runs this town, in a creative connections kind of way. They helped you and connected you there as well right?
HM: Totally. A few years ago I hosted a Broken Fingaz exhibition at Andenken Gallery. Actually, Rachel Somers Miles who works for The Garage now, did most of the grant writing for that show, which is another connection in this weird web of coincidences surrounding the trip and the eventual exhibition. Anyway, when BF came out to Amdam, I think they really felt kindred spirits with the Andenken crew, and that relationship has steadily grown over the last few years, so when I got to their town (they did invite me after all) they treated me amazing. Totally amazing. Unga connected me to the Beit Hagefen Arab Jewish Cultural Center and they in turn hooked me up with a guy’s house to paint.
I stayed at Tant and Daniel’s parent’s house. Tits digs man.
Also, Tant had his birthday party up in the mountains outside of Haifa while I was there, and they had me over for that. That was also freaking amazing.
When I did finally make it to Tel Aviv, they also hooked me up with a wall to paint there at a very cool club called Teder…where they fed me and beered me and pizza’d me and hip hopped me.
Essentially the BF guys connection was like having the creative mob gold card for Israel.
JS: I read on your travel blog that you picked up a book on the street, which proved to be the main source of inspiration of your trip and which you used for the series of sculptures that you worked on as well. Can you tell us more about this mysterious book?
HM: The book is a huge vintage atlas. I found it on the street the first hour I was there. I think Tant was kinda mad, because he makes his paintings on book covers and I just kinda rolled in and found this amazing book, he gave me a tiny bit of stink eye about it. Funny thing was, I ended up giving the cover of the book to my girlfriend Mando, she also paints on covers. The inspiration though… in part is the written language, but that was all around me, and not just Hebrew but Arabic as well.
So…the written languages, those were very foreign to my eyes and also very beautiful. When we stop seeing letters as carrying additional value beyond just their shapes, well then we are open to seeing them as very beautiful all on their own. That happened to me. It happened to me years ago as well, when the math at university got to be too difficult for me, and I just started to reflect on how pretty the equations were despite the fact that their actual math power had grown beyond my understanding.
But anyway, back to the Atlas…I was meditating on the first letter of the Hebrew and Arabic alphabet, which is Aleph, which is the title of the show, and that reminded me of a story my friend Jeff Moe introduced me to ‘The Aleph’ by the Argentinian writer, Luis Borges. For Borges, ‘The Aleph’ is basically ‘all things, all together, all at the same time, all in one place’, a kind of encompassing infinity. In Haifa, I was thinking how there are all of these cultures, all in one place, existing in time … and it was just too crazy serendipitous that the book I found was an atlas…essentially a map of everything on the planet. It just all felt very fitting.
JS: What about the sculpture series. How was it to work on this series of sculptures and what did your creative process look like?
HM: I’ve been wanting to talk about this. So, the process was pretty long, longer than I thought it would be, hahaha. The wood was collected in Barcelona at La Escocesa and also in the streets of Amsterdam . The paint was left over from a trip last summer to Berlin from a project that Mando and I did with Urban Nation in Berlin and they donated that paint to us then. The metal bases for the sculptures were completely and totally inspired by a wall sculpture element from my mentor, the artist Carolina Sardi, in Little Haiti, and I would not have been able to make them at all if my homie Daan hadn’t let me use his welding, grinding tools and shop in North Amsterdam and he gave me all the scrap metal from which I made them . So this too…this process to create these tiny little sculptures took so many people and so much inspiration, and also so much generosity just to make them. Again, the title ‘Aleph’ is very fitting.
JS: Now you’ve put together a complete exhibition in Amsterdam, together with The Garage, how did this come about and what can we expect from this exhibition, outside of the series of sculptures from The Jaunt Forma?
HM: Yep, Mark Chalmers, the brains and brawn of the The Garage operation, he and I have done many projects together all in and around the world of Street Art. I knew you wanted to have an exhibition of the Forma sculptures all in one place, all at one time (Aleph) before they went to the new homes of the trip sponsors… Mark thought it was a cool idea to host it at The Garage and as they specialize in pop up exhibitions for very short stints it seemed the perfect match.
What you can expect from the show, is a handful of pieces that all go along with the title. Everything in the show is inspired by the trip, not just the Forma sculptures. There are four works on paper using the old atlas pages, there are four small wooden bricolage assemblage pieces that are all called ‘songs’ and these are inspired by Tant’s birthday party. There is one large wooden piece that I assembled at Makerversity Amsterdam, that is called ‘Aleph’ and it has a center point focus. That’s about it, there is one small piece of five framed components on abandoned paper and that piece was made at La Esconcesa in Barcelona, just before I left for Israel, so that’s it’s significance.
That’s about it. I can’t tell you how wonderful my Jaunt was, and what a crazy cool honor it has been to be a part of this amazing idea of your Jeroen. Thank you so much for sending me to Haifa. Mahalo, Hy