"Dad", 1998, C-Print, 61 x 152 cm
Hilliard´s large-format pictures are each composed of several photographs. These square prints represent details of a panorama – a kitchen, a bedroom, or a garden – spread out in front of us. But unlike the traditional panorama, where the viewer or the photographer just turns around without changing his position, Hilliard´s panoramas were taken apart and put together again. At a second glance one perceives that the single prints do not fit neatly. They differ slightly in size or sharpness, or in the angle from which each photograph was taken. Sometimes, some parts are missing.
Whether the protagonists of Hilliard´s photographs are lovers, father and son or just friends – the viewer is immediately caught by the emotions emanating from the scenes. The artist´s view on his subjects is never disengaged, but expressing gentle emotions, at least curiosity. Thus the viewer becomes involved immediately. The photographs can be read as parables of human relationships. ("Within the realm of my photographs what initially appears subjective and intimate is quite often a commentary on the larger contours of life. I continually aspire to represent the spaces we inhabit, relationships we create, and the objects with which we surround ourselves – and hope the messages my photographs deliver, finally speak of my and of our universal experience." D.H.)
Hilliard´s pictures often reduce the distance between viewer and object to a minimum: A hand, for example, or a big tree branch reach out into our world. But from the surface the bough or the hand invite us to follow them into the depth of the picture. Hilliard takes up an old concept of landscape painting, i. e. the idea of raking a promenade inside a painting. The artist himself sees his objects as landscapes: "Through my lens my world is transformed: a countertop, or perhaps a bedspread, or a human figure becomes landscape."
In "Untitled (Tom´s ankle), 1993" we see the entire scenery twice: reflected and concentrated in a round, convex mirror. Mirrors have often played a prominent role in the history of art. Sometimes they show the whole scenery from another point of view. Or they introduce spaces that would otherwise be invisible. In two of the most well-known paintings in art history, Jan van Eyck´s Arnolfini Portrait and Diego Velazquez´ Las Meninas, mirrors show what is going on outside the painting. Hilliard purposefully plays with his knowledge of art history; the great images of the past are an easy part of his world.
David Hilliard, born in 1964 in Lowell/Massachusetts, works and lives in Boston.