Fabrice Hyber

Text by David McDonald

It is not often you enter a gallery where a gallery assistant informs you “when you step into the gallery, Fabrice wants you to know that you are stepping into his mind.” Lord only knows what goes on inside an artist’s head! Thankfully stepping into Hyber’s mind offers a wondrous feast for the senses.

Raw Materials brings together a number of Hyber’s works in what is his first UK solo show. Coming via the Palais de Tokyo in Paris Hyber has created what he has referred to as a ‘mental spa’, utilising natural elements in surprising ways to engage the viewers’ senses, and offer new avenues of thought and contemplation.

Upon entering into the space, you met with a giant raincloud with its rain suspended in time, as well as sheds on one side, a herb garden on the other and rows of washing lines over grass straight ahead. You then realise these raindrops are Swarovski crystals glistening at your feet. It is an excellent example of Hyber’s desire to collaborate and create alongside businesses, corporations and scientists, not merely for profit, to foster symbiotic relations that help each respective group to think of the world in new and refreshing ways. These two ideas of collaboration and/or exchange, as well as generating new ways of seeing the world, are essential to Hyber’s work. Those sheds that would normally shelter you from the outside world instead bring it to you as you open one door to a thunderstorm, another to wind, and one to a rainbow. The herb garden does not contain sweet smelling flowers, instead it contains salt, red chillies, natural sponge and thousands of one cent euros, each a raw material that is affecting or is affected by its environment. All four items have also been a symbol of wealth at various times; perhaps this ‘mental spa’ is here to assist in all your worldly needs? The fruit and flowers that are in the garden may have begun as sweet smelling, but now they have had time to decay, the most poignant being the bouquet of flowers, suspended over a series of Hyber’s drawings and ideas. As the flowers compost their acidity drips down and begins slowly to alter the work, creating a full circle of an idea and object, and this object in turn altering the original idea, creating something new once more.

Wandering through the rest of the gallery you are surrounded by Hyber’s musings, his drawings and thoughts and processes laid bare on every wall, and of course those rows of sheets. Walking through them all puts you into Hyber’s own shoes as you find new pathways through his mind, passing all sorts of ideas, some realised in the same room, some seemingly never to escape those sheets (at least, not for now).

A chance to cool down is offered at the back in a room made entirely from open fridges, another cheeky example of using something found inside as the outside, while the outside being affected by the inside (although thankfully the room is not as chilly as you might expect!)

All in all, Hyber’s work provides a refreshing alternative way to look at not only the use of a conventional gallery space, but the wider world around you in a show that leaves you feeling utterly revitalised and with a smile on your face.

Fabrice Hyber: Raw Materials will be on display at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead until 30 June 2013.

David McDonald is an artist and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.