Easy tiger

04.05 — 02.06.2024

The exhibition opens Saturday the 4th of May

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The dilemma of modern society and the existential drama between human and machine, chaos and control, anarchy and authority, are expressed in the works and methodology of glass artist Hanna Hansdotter. Often, she pushes the warm, molten glass into a mold before releasing it, allowing for chance and “errors” to occur, creating a rupture in aesthetics. She plays against the history of glass art as industry and craftsmanship, shaping her artistic expression in the conflict between the rigid and the expressive. Her sculptures can be described as decadent and elegant, with roots in baroque and modern aesthetics. Throughout, she utilizes the vase form, which both provides functionality and connects them to a long tradition within the field of art. The color palette is often shiny and glamorous, giving the sculptures energy and an apparent lightness. The forms are playful and may seem simple, but behind the sculptures lies a great knowledge of glassblowing and a profound sensitivity to glass as a material.

Hanna Hansdotter (b. 1984) has established herself as a distinctive artist who combines formal language and conceptual aspects from design, craftsmanship, and contemporary art. She studied glassblowing at Kosta Glasscenter and Glasskolan in Orrefors before pursuing art studies at Konstfack in Stockholm, combining her craftsmanship experience and insight with conceptual and formal issues. She has had several significant exhibitions in recent years, including venues such as Kalmar Konstmuseum and Waldemars Udde in her home country of Sweden, as well as in Los Angeles and New York. Her works have been purchased by institutions such as the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg, The Ringling Museum of Art in Miami, and the Statens Konstråd. She has also won several awards.

For the exhibition at QB Gallery, she has worked on new pieces that also represent a progression from the projects she has previously worked on. The starting point is antiquity as an aesthetic concept, as expressed in torsos and columns. In a series of works, Hansdotter has cast masculine, muscular upper bodies in glass and adorned them with tattoos. In another series, she has cast columns that are broken or falling apart. She also presents a series of vases covered in bubbles and a new series of wall works where these bubbles are continued. Although the forms evolve and continue, the core remains the same, and she starts from the body as form and sensory apparatus; the bodies of the works meet the audience’s bodies in a direct sensory relationship. In other words, more than contemplating her works, the audience experiences them as spatial and sensory bodies.

Her art contradicts and mocks Adolf Loos’s pompous and colonial essay “Ornament and Crime” (1908), which was perceived as a manifesto for the aesthetics of modernism. Loos argued that aesthetics should be frugal and disciplined, without ornaments or other formal elements that could be perceived as useless. Loos’s essay laid the groundwork for Bauhaus, the arts and crafts movement, and minimalism’s geometric and reductive formal language. In many ways, the essay mirrors Michel Foucault’s perspective on modernity as defined by the disciplining of the body; madness, crime, and sexuality were to be suppressed to maintain civilization. In modern aesthetics, all signs of irrationality and lack of control were to be eliminated.

For Loos, the tattoo was the ultimate sign of barbaric decadence and an uncivilized form of expression, and in that sense, it is possible to see a direct connection between Loos’s fear of ornamentation and Hansdotter’s play with tattoos in her works. The torsos she has cast are tight and muscular, perhaps more idealistic that realistic (for most men), while tattoos saying “Easy Tiger” or “Love hurts” become a liberatingly humorous gesture, highlighting a banality in modern (Western) society’s pursuit of disciplined and perfected bodies.

One can easily think of archeology and the decline of civilizations when faced with ancient columns lying around or broken. Once again, the tight, symmetrical form is set in motion. In light of recent years’ monument debates and criticism of Western hegemony, it is tempting to interpret the fallen columns as a metaphor for the attack on the ancient philosophy that has defined so much of Western thought and society. For Friedrich Nietzsche, Western society was characterized by the rational thinking – the logical thinking introduced by Socrates in Greek philosophy – which had pushed out the spiritual and the irrational. With modernity, the emotions, the irrational, and the spiritual were finally completely suppressed, he believed. (That’s what he meant by the statement “God is dead.”)

Many artists have since used art and the art space to explore precisely the irrational and the bodily, and it is possible so understand Hansdotter’s artistic project in light of these fundamental issues related to Western civilization, discipline, and the body. She uses a playful formal language and humor as part of the means to explore these questions and opens up for a postcolonial and feminist critique of colonialist and masculine structures.

- André Gali

The text is originally written in Norwegian.

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