Sol Hill is largely known for his innovative, curious technique of image-making he calls Metagraphs — a variation on digital photography that uses its tech to record not simply images, but graphic representations of other forces like sound waves, electric vibrations, and other energy patterns the sensor might register. The mixed media results are both poetic and unsettling, giving evocative form to other ways of experiencing and perceiving the world beyond the overbearing senses. Similarly, in Hill’s overtly political, activist projects, he also seeks to expand the viewer’s perception beyond the narrow and conventional understanding of pressing issues. A series of bold, timely examples of the latter are on view at Gallery 825 through Friday, May 13.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
SOL HILL: Being the son of two artists, I grew up always interested in art and making stuff. I tried a career “making useful stuff” but burnt out and had a severe health crash 18 years ago. In that time, I was not sure I would recover and had to ask myself if I was happy with who I was and what I had done with my time in this mortal coil and the answer was no. That was profoundly painful. I resolved that if I recovered, I would only pursue what I was passionate about, which brought me back to art, eventually leading me to do an MFA in photography and I have never looked back.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Shortest: People tend to close off their way of thinking about things. My work aims to put holes in fixed perceptions to offer the opportunity to see things differently. My approach to making art seeks to challenge conventional viewpoints that limit our perspectives.
If slightly more is warranted I tack on this: In all my pursuits, from the lyrically beautiful camera-based technological mysticism of my Metagraphs to my topical political and ecological work, I look for aspects of the subject that hint at truth beyond the surface appearance. Sometimes I aim to disturb the viewer, and others instill a sense of wonder and mystery. In either case, I wish to trigger expanded awareness through my work.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I would be a neuroscientist studying human consciousness, or maybe a monk, or maybe if I were really smart, a political agitator for social and ecological justice.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I did my MFA at the Brooks Institute because I was interested in a photography-focused MFA. Of course I moved away from recognizable photography almost immediately and today I do a lot of mixed media work that does not always include any element of photography.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
My current show, State of the Union is on exhibit at the Los Angeles Art Association’s Gallery 825 in West Hollywood through May 13.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Ai Weiwei because I am deeply impressed with his creative approach to political and cultural commentary. His critical dissidence strikes a deep nerve in me and I would love to know how he works through to his final solutions and realizes them.
Andy Goldsworthy because his work was the first contemporary art that astonished me as a teenager and remains one of my personal favorites. His work speaks of transcendence through the ordinary and a profound connection with the earth. It speaks directly to my soul.
Chris Jordan because he has found a path to express his grave concern about our impact on the earth with astonishing and informative statistics based commentary on consumption and ecology. He has found a way to express many things that I am deeply worried about myself.
Barbara Kruger, because she is the consummate master of text based cultural criticism. I would love to have known her and seen her process. Her work remains a strong inspiration for me and informed much of my incorporation of text in my shredded and altered American flag series, State of the Union currently on exhibit at Gallery 825.
Christopher Bucklow because I absolutely love his photo process based luminous figures. These pieces speak to transcendence and the numinous nature of existence. They achieve what I would like to with my Metagraphs.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I usually work in silence if I am doing something that requires creativity, but if I am in production mode like prepping boards, stretching canvas, varnishing prints etc, I prefer audiobooks or TED Talks punctuated with an eclectic taste in music that encompasses bossa nova or popular Brazilian music, reggae, punk, dub or grungy electronic music.