Constellar Relations presents a series of new works by Tom Hackney arranged around Walter Benjamin’s idea of the “constellation”. In The Arcades Project (1927 – 1940), Benjamin posits the “constellation” as an alternative to the notion of linear development, the idea that the past exists on a continuum with the present. Instead, Benjamin’s “constellation” metaphor disavows an ideology of “progress” as the “constellation” exists as a non-linear symbol to link past events to each other or the past to the present.
Benjamin’s concept of the “constellation” reverberates in Constellar Relations as the works correspond with each other via Hackney’s use of a compositional structure common to each work. Grids provide a basis in Hackney’s practice and enable the formation of a “constellation” that aligns works such as Heliograph II (2014), Marble Portrait of an Unknown Man (100 – 50BC) (2014), and Chess Painting No. 45 (Duchamp vs. Tartakower, Nice, 1930) (2014).
Hackney’s “constellation” juxtaposes extracts of historical data as diverse as an image of Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square: Soft Spoken (1969) exposed to sunlight (Heliograph II); an iPhone photograph of a Hellenistic statue whose subject’s anonymity is affirmed via Hackney’s use of the PiXELATED app (Marble Portrait of an Unknown Man (100 – 50BC)); and a translation in paint of the sequence of moves in a chess match played by Marcel Duchamp (Chess Painting No. 45 (Duchamp vs. Tartakower, Nice, 1930)).
Unlike earlier uses by Mondrian and Malevich in the early 20th century, Hackney’s use of the grid structure creates narrative, as each work involves processes shaped by systems external to artistic control such as sunlight, an iPhone app, or pre-determined chess moves. Geometry “operates as a kind of syntax” for Hackney and, unlike Modernist self-reflexivity, the structure of each work allows its content to represent an external narrative that culminates in the “constellation”. In Constellar Relations the “constellation” sees each work illuminate another work, engendering the development of a complex narrative across works.
Tom Hackney (MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, 2008) lives and works in London. Exhibitions include John Moores Painting Prize (2014), Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; (detail) (2014), H-Project Space, Bangkok, Thailand; Tremors (2013), Breese Little, London; RA Summer Show (2012), Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Curator's Egg, Altera Pars (2012), Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London; and Point. Line. Plane. (2011), Hannah Barry Gallery, London. His works are in the collections of Manchester Art Gallery, The BOC Group, and Fidelity Investments, along with private collections in the UK, Ireland, USA, Switzerland, and Germany.