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Gary Gissler
Hawk & Hive

c o n t e x t u r e

: the act, process, or manner of weaving parts into a whole (Merriam-Webster)


On encountering text of any kind in a work of art, there is a compulsion to “read” it in a conventional sense, in order to decipher the artist’s intention. Scanning the letters and lines of text in Gary Gissler’s work presents a visceral challenge to the viewers desire to elicit meaning.


In the act of removing text from its original context, re-typing, cutting, blurring and weaving, Gissler is presenting a semiotic challenge: what are we to think when the familiarity of language is broken down to its constituent parts?


Sometimes a recognizable word can be seized upon, but without spacing or punctuation between seemingly unrelated words it remains elusive. If the viewer is to find meaning it becomes necessary to withdraw and reconsider the work not as a readable text but rather a vehicle through which the artist is presenting broader ideas.


As a practicing psychoanalyst Gissler is interested in exploring how individuals construct injurious narratives that are embodied in language (around shame, fear, desire etc) and how these can be broken down though analysis as a means of freeing the patient from psychic pain. In his art practice, the literal cutting apart and re-assembling of text mirrors and expounds upon the concept of unburdening by deconstruction. There is an implied association with the pre-verbal language of infants and concepts of the sublime, where the emotional response (pre-lingual) supersedes the intellectual (lingual).


Aside from the process of dissembling, the work operates on a secondary level. The source texts for each artwork - a group of seminal works of literature and psychological sciences - are selected for their common themes. 


In “sig and alice” Gissler has harvested text from Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” to reference their shared investigations into dreams and altered states of consciousness. In another work, “deafers”, the chapter “The Whiteness of the Whale” from “Moby Dick” is chosen for its theme of absence - the finished artwork is rendered both impenetrable and washed of meaning by the tight mesh of its construction. There is a wry play-fullness in “what where” in which he takes a chapter from “Ulysses” that Joyce seemingly wrote as a satire of romantic writing - often cited as the most readable of all chapters in this famously dense novel - which Gissler renders unreadable. His engagement with canonical works is both reverent and mischievous.


The artist’s hand is ever present in these intricate and elegant constructions. Time and patience are represented in the painstaking work involved in perfecting the intersection and layering of type and paper. There is a mediative quality to the repetition, the spacing and the patterns that take shape. The absence of all but the most subtle colors focuses attention on aesthetic form and physical process. 


These works form a bridge between “something” and “nothing”; they are an homage to language as well as an inquiry into its fallibility. After inviting us to physically lean into, to look carefully for the elucidation that language usually offers, Gissler suggests is only when we step away we allow ourselves to slip under meaning and simply allow ‘being’ to occur. This conceptual investigation of language allows us to consider other ways of reading a work of art. 

Hawk & Hive 2021

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