Legends is a collage dispersed across the glass surface of the window. Illustrations are taken from a range of pictorial maps that have been stripped of landscape features and descriptive labels, then stacked and tiled to form a larger pattern. The images previously represented different places, but have now lost their informational capacity and float in empty pictorial space. Perhaps when an image loses its original communicative context, it might gain a new narrative opportunity.
Hickman reflects: ‘To un-tether symbol and meaning undermines the communicative function they were designed to serve.’
In his 1977 essay Rhetoric of the Image, French semiotician Roland Barthes (1915-1980) warned that the linguistic nature of the image is somewhat ‘suspicious.’ Ever the structuralist, Barthes stated his desire to submit each image to ‘a spectral analysis of the messages it may contain.’ Importantly the linguistic message of an image is two-fold; a literal image is denoted and the symbolic image is connoted.
Hickman’s Legends presents this ‘pictographic’ state of the image, in agreement with Barthes demonstrating that all images have multiple modalities of meaning, they are ‘polysemous; they imply, underlying their signifiers, a ‘floating chain’ of signifieds, the reader able to choose some and ignore others.’
‘Legends’ presents a floating chain of images, creating a series and submitting them to a sort of spectral analysis via commercial materials, recalling the didacticism of museum displays yet remaining open and ambiguous.
In Letters, images from children educational posters are removed from their context. Text labels would usually sit underneath each different animal, flower or vegetable to teach children the names and spelling of things in the world.
Letters is a series of GIF animations that uses these images as a written language replacement strategy. Each frame in the animation represents a different letter of the alphabet. Images appear in the frames corresponding to the label’s individual letters. By this logic, each image behaves as an alternative language symbol beyond pictorial content.
Yolunda Hickman (b. 1988) an Auckland-based artist, graduated with an MFA from Elam School of Fine Arts, the University of Auckland in 2012. Hickman’s practice is concerned with the slippage between abstraction and meaning through the limitations of communication and representation. A recent body of work alters examples of information design, separating the communicative function from visualisations. By doing this, Hickman aims to disassociate the sources from their original purpose in order to test the possibility of image, composition and form and ascribe new associations via spatial experience. This can be seen to consider the nature of communication and when communication collapses into pictorial priorities.