Monad Wall Hangings by Alistair Byars

Alistair Byars is a talented designer/maker of sculptural objects currently living and working between Edinburgh and Glasgow and interning at Groves-Raines Architects Studios, Edinburgh. His work focuses on hand-applied materials and studies the visual and tactile properties of rough/smooth and natural/artificial textures. Conceptually speaking, Alistair’s works go beyond material exploration and question philosophical notions of life through different symbolic forms and compositions.

Monad Wall Hangings

Inspired by Leibniz’s metaphysical system, more specifically by the ‘monads’, basic substances that make up the universe but lack spatial extension, this series marks an attempt to translate this concept into something visible, something that captures the essence of the conception. «The Monad series documents an attempt to visualize the invisible and to capture the essence of conception. Each piece can be thought of as a single point – from which a specific aura emanates out from, or returns back into. The meaning of these auras is unique to every individual, due to their own personal perceptions and circumstances.»

Monad Wall Hangings by Alistair Byars

The beginning

Alistair Byars: It began with the notion of trying to produce something that conveyed no image or form, only an emotion. This idea lead me into a fascination with the mind: a place where we experience the most visceral emotion – but with no physical counterpart. It is an attempt at giving the intangible space within our minds a physical body.
We can sometimes think of our minds as a place where thoughts or emotions can appear, without our consent. They can surprise us. This is where the idea of the aura comes from – it’s almost like a signal, sent from our unconscious. Sometimes these signals are positive, beneficial, or even transcendental. But they can also be destructive. So the act of producing a physical body allows us to metaphorically step outside of our mind and look at this signal from a healthy distance. The thinker can watch the thought, as an entity separated from themselves. This is a necessary exercise for remaining in control of our emotions – rather than being at their mercy.

Exhibition with Monad Wall Hangings and other pieces by Alistair Byars

The idea of a personal and collective ‘Aura’

Alistair Byars: I think these are in some way the same aura, as a collective is made up of individuals. This is why I say “the meaning of these auras is unique to every individual, due to their own personal perceptions and circumstances”. We can be collectively looking at the same thing, but individually seeing something very different.

For me personally, the Aura represents my relationship with physical communication. The act of creating gives me meaning and purpose, something that I struggle to find elsewhere in life. All my life I have had a stutter, which can often make it hard for me to speak at length, or deeply, with others. Sometimes it’s unnoticeable, but on many occasions, I’ve just had to walk away from a conversation because I literally can’t get the words out of my mouth. I’ve grown to despise the spoken word in some ways because of this – as I can never seem to get my point across properly. I think this is why I feel so strongly towards the act of physical creation and communication. There is an ability to get a point across, without having to use words. The only other place I get this sense of meaning and purpose is when listening to certain pieces of music – which is why it is my main source of inspiration.

Exhibition with Monad Wall Hangings and other pieces by Alistair Byars

Contrast, color and size

Alistair Byars: The size is relatively large (250 x 170cm). I think certain ideas appear in the mind with a scale attached. This idea appeared in my mind as roughly human size – something that an onlooker could get lost within. You can see it from a distance and experience a certain connection, but also study it up close and become aware of a hidden layer of detail and complexity.

The colours were difficult to decide upon. Colours are always linked to emotion – which is a central theme of the piece. Keeping the tones relatively neutral and earthy allows for different emotions to be mapped onto the piece. I could be content and calm, or isolated and anxious – there is an ability to see both of these within the work. The fact that there are 2 canvas works, which oppose each other in colour, was interesting to me. It plays with the idea of emanation and return. In both pieces, it’s not obvious if the darkness is enveloping the light or vice versa.

On a technical point, the tonal gradient from light to dark was difficult to do and look natural. It took some problem-solving. In the end, the effect is produced from laying the canvas down on its back and misting acrylic paint down onto the middle of the canvas from a significant height. As the mist hits the surface, it radiates outwards and slowly dissipates as it reaches the edge of the canvas.

Monad Wall Hangings
Materials: Unprimed cotton canvas, Tulipwood frame, Reinforced
Jesmonite, Acrylic paint
Year: 2021
Dimensions: 250 x 170 x 5 cm
Weight: 33 Kg (approx.)

Interview with Alistair Byars | Photography Gabriela Silveira