"My training as an artist is anchored in the tradition of finding transcendent meaning in the non-verbal language of observational drawing and painting. Trained in drawing by the master draughtsman Sigmund Abeles, my studio life revolves around focusing on shapes in the natural world that counter the human need for pattern and clarity, through the disruption and surprise of the non-human form. Searching for the rupture that comes when abstract pattern (or illustrational shorthand) and observation intersect is the foundation of my practice.
Looking for visual forms that speak with the most intense non-verbal clarity, I return again and again to our neighbors, the plants. Plants communicate with each other—their plant family, friends, and enemies—through processes that are invisible to us. What they do offer us is shelter, medicine, nourishment, beauty, ugliness, poison, and resistance. When I am using imagery based on plant forms, I begin by working from direct observation. This ensures that the forms that only the plant can display—forms that my mind can't generate through imagination, and that a photograph hasn’t simplified—are transmitted into the image. Through enveloping ourselves in those specific non-animal shapes, we can sometimes start to hear the message that the plants are broadcasting.
Relatedly, the built environment has had an influence on my recent work. In residence at the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, I encountered an environment of architecture and cultivated land that was organized specifically to guard against the earthly disruption of natural form. Spiritual focus, for the Shakers, was tied to a geometricized experience of space, as well as an understanding that divine gifts could include manual labor and ordinary work as well as ecstatic art and movement. The natural world provided the Shakers with forms to regularize into meditative objects, such as Gift Drawings and carefully composed barns, houses, and places of worship. Transcribing the buildings and artifacts that the Shakers left behind in Canterbury allowed me to understand their sense of sacred geometry through a similar conversation with images of the natural world—a conversation built around the acceptance of a language that transcends the written and spoken word."
- Hilary Irons