Strawberry Fields Forever, Minus the Strawberries
April 17, 2017 by
Kyle Triplett is interested in visual elements of the natural world that act as bookends for our experiences with the sky and ground; his work often returns to explorations and themes of fields. Kyle’s perception of field is that it’s a tract of land, which provokes thought about distance and time. In his opinion, a field as an image tends to look like everywhere and nowhere simultaneously, which makes that juxtaposition in his work quite cool.
Like many ceramic aficionados, Kyle’s first experience with art was through pottery. He took a ceramics class in high school and has used that experience to construct a sense of place through large scale installations. Kyle executes these pieces through the layering, mediation, and remediation of information. This in turn opens questions of the natural and artificial experience of landscape, the picturesque, and the romantic notions of the sublime.
AZ sat down with Kyle to discuss the psychology behind his fascinating work.
Art Zealous: Astrological sign?
Kyle Triplett: Capricorn
AZ: Currently reading?
KT: Life to those Shadows by Noël Burch
AZ: Artistic background?
KT: During my final semester at Southeast Missouri State University, I shifted away from pots and started making ceramic-based mixed media sculpture. I started playing with digital tools shortly after starting graduate school at Ohio University in 2010. The result was a series of ceramic objects onto which I projected a digital surface. This work began to increase in scale, morphing into larger installations. Although I had not thought of making this particular kind of installation-based work this way prior to graduate school, I deliberately chose a graduate program that was concept driven rather than anchored in a specific material in order to have greater flexibility with my work.
I started playing with space as a material due in large part to the convergence of a new desire to work on a large-scale and the size of the critique rooms at OU that could accommodate that. The more recent work is a direct outcome of that body of work.
With the current work, I’m looking at Olafur Eliasson, Del Harrow and the filmmaker James Benning. The music of the late, great George Jones is usually in heavy rotation in the studio.
AZ: If you could be featured in any museum or gallery, which would you choose?
KT: I would love to install my work in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Beyond the challenge of working in that volume, it would be amazing to follow in a space that has exhibited Ai WeiWei’s Sunflower Seeds, Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment, and Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project.
AZ: How does your process differ when doing installations vs. digital?
KT: There is a certain amount of back and forth between physical reality and digital work, even for the installations. The physical space of the gallery is essential for the installations. Typically, I travel to the gallery to take photographs, which I use to sketch over. I construct the space in a 3D modeling software called Rhino, so that I have a virtual space to think about lighting, scale and spatial relationships.
To construct the actual piece, I create large-scale site-responsive structures out of ceramics, wood, and projected light and/or fluorescent fixtures. I tend to think of each project as a modular kit that gets unpacked in the space and is designed for construction as such. I think about the methods used by companies such as IKEA to maximize efficiency for manufacturing and transportation.
The digital work emerged from documentation photographs of my earlier installations. However, since 2014 I have been creating images that are solely shown as backlit digital prints. When I set up the photographs, I am again considering issues of space. I take into consideration what the camera sees, much as one would stage a movie set. Truthfully, finding a balance between physical reality and digital reality is still a struggle, because of my craft background and allegiance to the critical importance of materiality.
AZ: Tell us about nature themes in your work.
KT: A field is a space demarcated by use or purpose. A field is also a place. I think about place as defined by three elements. First, a specific location is needed: a here versus a there. The second is a locale, a material setting in which social relationships take place: a wall, a road, a field, etc. The final element is “a sense of place,” the subjective and emotional attachment a person or groups of people have to a place. This final requirement begins to function conceptually.
As an artist, I am interested in ways that I could construct and provoke this subjective and emotional attachment in a viewer, or at the least a sense of familiarity or distinctiveness. I want to construct an idealized place, where mundane architecture and infrastructure are stripped away and replaced by my own structures of performance and objects. I’m interested in using the space of the gallery as a platform to create an imagined, constructed landscape as opposed to recreating a known or remembered experience.
Ultimately, I want the work to induce a form of transportive experience; for the viewer to be placed at the axis point of a vast panorama of nostalgia and expectation, the past and future, distance and adjacency, longing and satisfaction.
I grew up in western South Dakota: fields and similar expansive and open spaces are very much ingrained in me. I don’t know that fields as specific entities registered with me when I was younger, but I do remember feeling literally and figuratively a long way away from a lot of things.
AZ: Walk us through some of your favorite installations.
KT: I approach my work with the understanding that it’s fundamentally impossible to recreate nature, but I think there is something compelling in the attempt and failure. It’s about constructing a structure that hits most of the notes that a real landscape does. The number of individual elements that make up a scene is a little maddening, but again, there is something interesting in the attempt to create a landscape one single grass blade at a time as in Untitled, OH #8.
The piece took up the whole width and most of the depth of a long, narrow room that was once a movie theatre. I was interested in creating a piece with a fixed sightline, rather than a piece that was open to movement and multiple viewpoints. The audience was given a specific place to sit. It was a massive piece. The piece contained around 2,500 cast porcelain pieces and seven lightboxes with digital prints of a panoramic skyscape. But, because of the seating arrangement, only 1 or 2 people at a time could view.
I wanted to take something monumental and create a personal, intimate moment with it. The structure created a forced vanishing point: the ceiling dipped, the sides went in, and the floor rose. This created the illusion that the piece had more depth than it actually did.
AZ: Currently working on?
KT: I just wrapped up an installation entitled Dry Prong in Tulsa, OK. Currently, I am working on a couple of more permanent public art installations. Teaching at a school that includes an architecture program has caused me to shift my focus away from ephemeral installations to more permanent artworks that are in dialogue with the literal landscape and architectural structures.
AZ: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
KT: Next up, I will be showing in Philadelphia in July at the Kitchen Table Gallery. I teach full time at Louisiana Tech University, so summer brings welcome studio time. This summer I will be focused on creating digital models and testing new ceramic materials for the new work. Ideally, I would like to develop a clay body that is able to withstand four seasons’ worth of environmental conditions. I am making a big change in my studio practice and I am not entirely sure what the outcome will be.
Follow Kyle on Instagram: @triplett.kyle
all images // courtesy of the artist