“I want to take you on a journey into this forest.” Hilary Tolan first remarks in her artist statement. She does just that through her solo exhibition, Emerge, a series of photographs and graphite drawings currently on view in Kingston’s Main Gallery. As I look at her dark, almost eerie, images of dense rhododendron shrubs, I feel as though I am transported there, peering up through them and feeling their waxy leaves brush against me. The low lit underbrush of the forest recedes into the non-visible and become spaces for viewers to rest their gaze, explore and wonder.
With her photos, Tolan asks “Can you tease out this space, understand it, what you are perceiving, seeing or not seeing?” Branches and leaves perfectly cut out with an X-ACTO knife mimic moments washed out by overexposure and become like drawn lines. The contrast of these white lines emphasize the motion of growing branches – upward – towards the sunlight.
Tolan’s drawings on the other hand are far more spacious and light. Her use of fine graphite lines on mylar highlight the intricacies of a plant’s veins, trichomes and blooms. These drawings ask the viewer to slow down and “…be reminded of the plant’s ephemeral nature.” says Tolan. They have viewers think about space in a very different way than her photographs, causing them to glace back and forth between them, comparing and asking themselves What did I miss?