Currently at the Utah Art Festival Gallery you’ll find some extraordinary art by an exceptional artist. Refreshing in their authenticity and frankness, their essential beauty and candid exploration of the medium of light, these works by Troy Hunter will leave you breathless. The experiment of Modernism challenged its audience to seek a truth in art that was not based in illusion, and Hunter is one of its heirs, seeking for universal expression and purity of medium. He uses light to express his love of beauty, and, like Mondrian, Hunter does this by seeking the purity and essence of light and color, in wonderfully poised images where everything is reduced to its barest essentials and light is given a balanced and harmonious presentation.
Hunter shoots at night, allowing light to filter through his lens to create these wonderful images. Within this restricted method Hunter produces a variety of works each of which stands alone as an entity with a characteristic quality. Sometimes he stages works, as when he strung rope lights along his mother’s fence. Other times he works with what he finds, like streetlights or Fourth-of-July firecrackers. Knowing this, one could approach the photographs with interpretive meaning in mind, but they are just as easily enjoyed with a formalist reading, enjoying what’s on the paper rather than the story behind it.
That the artist is content to leave the interpretation of these abstract pieces open to the viewer is suggested by the fact that he doesn’t give them names (so we can only refer to them by the numbers on his website). G1-1 is as brightly rendered and vivid, and filled with as much character and personality as a late Kandinsky. The piece is alive with color in the form of a nearly full spectrum of light in thin bands of swooping colors. It has the same musical quality Kandinsky associated with his paintings. Whether purely formal, as a fine rendering of brightly hued streams of light dancing in space or a more subjective approach that involves abstract ideas of sight and sound, memory and reality, it is a marvelously composed and balanced image that is lucidly rendered and can be investigated for the sake of its wondrous exploration of beauty.
Another image that is worth discovering for its exploration of beauty is G1-5. This curious composition can be seen much like a mature Paul Klee and can be read for its rhythmical and quantitative values of color and proportion. It can also have a more subjective reading, appearing like a seascape of amoebas or plankton swimming in a current, such is the balance of light achieved in these photographs, a result of Hunter’s keen eye for the beautiful manifest in nature (in this case Temple Square lights bathed in fog).
Hunter’s body of work presents myriad images, from DNA-like bands of color, to cloudy kaleidoscopes, each image as compelling as the next. G1-15 is another piece that assumes a uniqueness of character through the artist’s methodology. The crimson red swirls on a black ground emit a boldness and a sense of abstraction akin to the abstract expressiveness of Robert Motherwell. This composition, too, has an absorptive quality as an abstraction. It has a tonal warmth that is comforting and soothing and holds the viewer ensconced in the blackness, which is not cold or necessarily dark. The photograph — and it can be easy to forget that these are photographs — also can be seen purely as red light in space, as red color emanating through disks of pure light. In either case it is a marvelous abstract composition that is authentic in its purity, quality and beauty.
Ehren Clark studied art history at both the University of Utah and the University of Reading in the UK. For a decade he lived in Salt Lake City and worked as a professional writer until his untimely death in 2017.