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Date Minted: June 12, 2020

Artist Description: Passing the storm is never easier, but you are almost there.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

A requiem is a song or a prayer for the dead, and a fitting title for a piece so bleakly-colored and darkly emotive. Requiem, by artist Sylo, is a quintessential example of his early work, a piece glazed over in moody black and white, but imbued with enough movement and advanced texture work to effortlessly evoke life. It’s rare, however, for Sylo to work with such defined human forms. Normally, the artist seems to prefer human bodies with less clarity, either seen from diminutive perspectives or in pieces which focus only on hands, or on bodies seen from far away, etc. That makes Requiem physically unique in Sylo’s oeuvre. Stylistically, however, it displays the same pantheonic technical excellence that is visible throughout all of his works. Expressively, I’d argue that it’s the artist’s current apex. Nothing else in his body of work is this emotionally affecting. 

And that may be a result of the overt humanization of his subject. Building off what I’d mentioned before, human forms in Sylo’s works are presented in all manner of obfuscating ways: presented foggily, with only their extremities clear, or constructed out of inhuman tendrils, or made of smoke, or turned away from us; always, something gets in between us and the people Sylo is building his piece around. Not so much here. The human form, washed out in stark white —contrasting with the grey and silver of the rest of the piece— is visible from forehead to toe, even though half of it is covered in a kind of paper-thin, silk blanket. We see, pushing up through the animated fabric, the entirety of the genderless form, shoulders and arms and hips and knees and feet. Perhaps I can speak only for myself, but I’m more emotionally attached to totalities, and here, the human form is presented as a totality.Thus, I can feel the totality of their emotion. When their elongated body curls inward towards the fetal-position, I feel it all the more powerfully. When the inexpressive face and unmoving head curve downwards, tucked into the chest, I feel the figure’s pain and fear and momentary motherlessness. There’s a real emotive energy that bursts from this piece, a tenderness and an infantilism, the purehearted hopelessness of the defenseless soul.

Based on the way the piece is composed —the actual technical processes which provide movement— we can almost infer a narrative from within this few-second loop. Covering the human form is a thin sheet. It might be made of rubber. It’s skin-tight. And it blows wildly on its far side, as if a strong wind has snuck underneath it. Around the figure’s ankles and around its shoulders, the sheet threatens to tear off, thus leaving the figure with zero insulation against the whipping invisible forces that envelop it. (On a purely technical level, I’m blown away [no pun intended] by the way the sheet is constructed. It has such specific, plastic-wrap texture, flaps so naturally in the invisible wind. Especially when juxtaposed with the very rigid and very simple movement of the figure it covers, it’s the sheet which seems to invoke the most personality. It’s the figure which appears inanimate, the sheet which whips wildly, bursting with the breath of life.) The Artist Description reads, “Passing the storm is never easier, but you are almost there.” Simple, evocative. Though the “storm” is really only inherent in the description and in the movement of the sheet, the combination almost invokes an environment around the piece. We can imagine the downpour of rain. We can picture the wild winds which womp upon some unseen door or wall, but only the dregs can enter, the bits which can fit through a crack or a broken windowpane, and make it through to the chilled figure. This is not a figure in danger, but a figure nevertheless suffering the effects of the gale just outside the frame, the one we can infer but not necessarily identify. 

And all of this communicated with just a few simple human movements, the rest built off the visual effects. I’m deeply impressed at how much emotional information has been enclosed within Requiem’s folds. I’m, obviously, deeply affected by this work as well. It resonates with emotions I can’t quite put my finger on. The loneliness of weathering things alone, perhaps. Solitary battles. The human being with nothing else to console them, so they are forced to console themselves.

Requiem, as a title, invokes death, and yet what I see presented in the piece is life —a specific and melancholy expression of life, but life nonetheless. Is this “storm,” spoken of in the Artist Description, an emotional one? Is our figure, clutching tight to their sheet, not holding out against the actual forces of rain and sleet and thunder, but the fallout from a death? If this figure is engaged themselves in the requiem, if they are the Requiem, this piece takes on an added layer of sorrow. The human being, overcome by the emotion of loss, scrunching tight into the position of an infant, a being incapable of any higher-level thought, borne on the back of nothing but intense, uncontrollable emotion. Tragedy, something only the bereaved and temper-tantrum-ing toddlers can perhaps truly understand. In Requiem, that sorrow is presented poetically, stoically, starkly. A world sapped of color, reduced to its blacks and whites. A person sapped of their identity: all that they are is captured in their slow, repetitive movement; grief has neither gender, nor form, nor identifying factors…it is universal and uniform. A piece sapped of all but its most communicative elements. Like bereavement itself, without fluff and without distraction, only the pain, the immediate surroundings, and the response. 

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