Hillier’s new work for Ceremony adds to a growing catalogue of work which is steeped in mysticism and archetypal iconography. The works are created with collage, multimedia, pen and ink and in special editions, 24 carat gold leaf, scoring into the gold to create a three dimensional surface, emulating traditional icon design.
Emphasising the continuing power of symbolism and sacred imagery, Hillier explores themes of mystery, wonder and connection with a strong element of the surreal. His aesthetics, at once hauntingly familiar and often psychedelic, give the commonplace a sense of the unseen and as yet unknown.
In Colibri, 2016, an effigy with a huge halo of black and white feathers and a triumvirate of vacant eyes, throws open her outstretched hands in the manner of a crucifixion. Rather than nails, delicate hummingbirds poke at her palms.
Ghost, 2016 is classic Hillier; a severe gentleman’s portrait is subverted, a dark, spectral wood growing up out of his starched white collar where his face would be. As if like Dante, in the middle of the journey of his life he had lost his way, perhaps in his wild thoughts or in his human connection with nature.
Ceremony references Hillier’s interest and exploration of universal iconography, plant medicine ceremonies and uncharted territory. The exhibition explores imagination and devotional imagery and asks how visual icons might evoke the same intensity of wonder and emotion today, as they did in a less image-saturated past.
From a childhood fascination with horror compendiums and ancient Egyptian art, to Max Ernst’s Surrealist collages in the wordless novel, Une Semaine de Bonte (1933), and influences ranging from Christian and Buddhist iconography to underground comic art, Hillier’s inspiration and sources are far reaching. He recently travelled to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest to work with the psychedelic plant medicine ayahuasca with Shipibo shamans, an experience which has profoundly influenced his subsequent work.
Using ‘found’ source material, 19th century engravings, encyclopedias and botanical and anatomical prints, Hillier weaves images together creating enigmatic hybrid figures that could be deities or reflections of visionary experience. Suggestive of the old master techniques, but working with modern technology, Hillier repeatedly layers, assembles, removes and reveals to create unexpected new creations, working painstakingly into the resulting image with a tablet pen or pen and ink.
Ceremony runs from 25 November 2016 to 3 January 2017 at Prints & Originals Gallery, Saatchi Gallery.