︎   |   ︎   |   Subscribe

Mishka Henner, Sight Seeing
Galerie Jean-Kenta Gauthier, Paris, France
Opening date 18 September  — 24 October 2021

Since 2010, Mishka Henner has explored the nature of photography in the post-Internet age through the repurposing of visual and documentary material found online. His focus has often been on art history, digital culture, and market economics, resulting in critical and often controversial investigations of technological capitalism and its effect on our physical and social environment.

In Sight Seeing, Henner turns his attention to his own gaze by using eye-tracking software to track the movement of his eyes across a subject. Many artists have described their works as existing only when they are seen and experienced by a viewer and in this exhibition, Henner interprets this idea literally by creating a series of works through the simple act of looking.

Eye tracking is often used in scientific research, market research, gaming and product design to determine how and where viewers' attention is concentrated. Here, Henner uses the technology to capture his gaze as it travels across a found image of High Yellow by American painter Ellsworth Kelly (1923 – 2015). Kelly’s use of colour and deceptively simple shapes often belie their documentary origins and for many years, Henner has been fascinated by the painter’s ability to transform banal details of everyday life into bold abstractions.

Sixty-one years after Kelly completed High Yellow, Henner observed a found image of Kelly’s painting for ten-seconds and encased it in a laser cut case, the image visible only through an aperture created by Henner’s gaze. In presenting the results, the overall gaze is divided into one-second slices of time. The resulting sequence of ten works is a temporal presentation of these accumulated observations, each one having its own unique abstract form as the original image is gradually revealed.

Ellsworth Kelly lived in Paris as a young artist in the late 1940s and early 1950s, where he found inspiration in the city’s architecture and created some of his earliest abstract compositions. Influenced by the works of anonymous medieval craftsmen, he tried to eliminate the trace of his hand from his canvases to create hard-edged colour field paintings. Henner’s use of digital eye-tracking software and laser cutting can be seen as an echo of Kelly’s method but made using contemporary tools and technology.

Henner’s interest in questioning the nature of authorship is evident in earlier works such as Less Américains and Richtered (both 2012). With the former, Henner produced high-resolution scans of Robert Frank’s seminal 1958 photobook The Americans, zoomed into each image and painstakingly erased details and contours until only skeletal traces of the original photographs remained. In Richtered, Henner saw parallels in the paintings of Gerhard Richter and Ed Ruscha and digitally remixed them to create new layers of meaning where the authors had previously negated them.

In describing his latest exhibition, Henner says, “Eye tracking shows us that the act of looking is an inherently creative one. No two observations are ever the same, The eye is constantly moving and each observation is unique. When you apply this principle to looking at art, it challenges the sanctity and fixity of the original since each observation itself creates a new image.”

The installation High Yellow is accompanied by a portfolio presentation of Ellsworth Kelly's Blue and Orange (Bleu et Orange), 1964–65 [Six Seconds], and by an installation of Less Américains, 2012.

List of works

Ellsworth Kelly’s High Yellow, 1960 [Ten Seconds]
Eleven lasercut acrylic cases, each 50x70cm (19.7x27.6 inches) with archival pigment print mounted to Dibond.

Ellsworth Kelly's Blue and Orange (Bleu et Orange), 1964–65 [Six Seconds]
Seven archival pigment prints, 59.4x42cm (23.4x16.5 inches) with signed title page.

Less Américains, 2012.
Portfolio of 83 silver gelatin prints (28.7 x 20.3cm / 11.3 x 8 inches).