Yolunda Hickman is an artist working in the wider fields of painting. She is interested in the visual noise of contemporary life, and the slippage between classification, abstraction and meaning as we try to decipher the images that fill our world. Paintings made from end-of-line novelty print fabrics include graphic depictions of horses, fish, eagles and puppies mingle with laser-cut stencils of some of these same subjects, creating a visual landscape that is jarring and discordant. Originally intended as quilting fabrics, that’s where you might expect to see these horses and puppies—stitched into a kitsch bedspread. Step back, and these works begin to abstract, giving them the agitating intensity of nineties Duraseal schoolbook coverings. All this contributes a nostalgic, domestic quality to the works. Though with an energy that is more neurotic, thrilling: Hickman is the kid in home economics class who has gone rogue. In 2019 she completed a major public sculpture commission, titled Signal Forest, for the 4 Plinths project located in Te Papa’s forecourt on Wellington’s waterfront (these are on display till 2022). These sculptures, since developed into a new body of work, consist of three or four entangled shapes that from a distance look like writhing, colourful abstractions of the human body. The tubular forms are in fact interlocking stencils of everyday objects like a hat, a plane, a bird, a burning candle, a pie with rising heat lines. Based on street signs, icons and advertising logos, these are less the emojis of social media and more the simplified cutouts you’re likely to see illustrating the letters of the alphabet on the walls of a classroom. As with her paintings, there is a discord between the image depicted in the stencil, and the images contained in the stencil’s vinyl surface. These works aim to test how a viewer discerns meaning from pictures—how we extract the signal from the noise. There is a strange pleasure to this cacophony.
Yolunda Hickman (b. 1988, Auckland, New Zealand) lives and works in Auckland. She has exhibited extensively at artist spaces and public galleries throughout New Zealand. Highlights include: 4 Plinths, Wellington; Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Dunedin; Window, Auckland; George Fraser Gallery, Auckland; Papakura Art Gallery, Auckland. In 2020 she completed her doctoral thesis at Elam School of Fine Arts, the University of Auckland. She is currently the acting Director for the Master of Fine Arts programme at Whitecliffe, Auckland.