Playing with Perception

Terry Haggerty’s bedazzling paintings and sculptures play with our perception, in a manner often misper­ceived as simply optical. But rather than relying on well­trodden paths his pieces are far more ambiguous and occupy a space that teeters on the edge between illusion and abstraction.

Terry Haggerty’s bedazzling paintings and sculptures play with our perception, in a manner often misper­ceived as simply optical. But rather than relying on well­trodden paths his pieces are far more ambiguous and occupy a space that teeters on the edge between illusion and abstraction.

by Niklas von Bartha
27.10.2018

Their pure and geometric appearance hides a series of complex compositional structures that result in works, which are in the best sense of the word obsessive. Repetitive patterns have been the dirty little secret of reductive vocabulary for decades.
One could argue that in an European context their origin can be traced back to the industrial revolution, where even the most ornate pattern was made to fit the intrinsic repetition of the machine made.

Terry has made good use of repetition, neatly arranged in self­contained works, high contrast bands of colour intertwine to create a visual feast that rivals the most intricate Victorian design. The precise manner in which the artist has executed all of his work bares few marks of the maker. Rather than show­ casing the laborious and detailed processes that underlie these works, it is as if these objects were made by machines. One may wonder if Terry is attracted to the industrial look, or is simply besotted with engineering.

Of course this is missing the point, it’s the im­ maculate quality of Haggerty’s works that bestow them an almost otherworldly presence. Each work occupies a carefully crafted space, sometimes the works ex­ trude from the wall making their presence known like a sledgehammer. I enjoy the unapologetic arrogance of these works precisely because they leave little to interpretation.

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Haggerty’s work is often described as minimalist in nature, but nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike Judd, Flavin & Co. he doesn’t appear to be primarily interested in stripping the composition of his works back to the bare minimum, but instead his pieces are far more elaborate. Indeed the play between what we see and what is in fact present are two completely opposite matters.

The artist denies us the ability to read each work in a single instance. But rather your eye is drawn into an exploration of line and form, the picture of the work is formed in our mind. The latest works exhibited at von Bartha Basel this fall as well as the suite of works recently shown at von Bartha S­chanf explore an increasingly reductive language, parti­ cularly if compared to many of his earlier works. However, they equally develop from singular forms, that are repeated or in some instances mirrored to create comparable visual experiences.

The instantaneous joy of experiencing Terry’s works continues to evolve and on closer inspection each piece reveals a generous, yes sometimes overt expressiveness that would make Judd shiver; and they are all the better for it. Over the years I have struggled with Terry’s work, stupidly dismissing it as decorative or simple at first, I have come to revel in their straightforward bril­liance. These works are precise but not sterile, they are clear but not simple, the longer you spend with them the more you appreciate each composition and counter to my initial concern Haggerty is an artist who can expand the vocabulary of repetition; time and time again his works may surprise you or simply make you smile.