The art which inhabits the Kristin Hjellegjerde gallery is one of flesh and violence disguised in knitted fabrics and blown up marble. Artists Hanne Friis and Athar together complement the space by bringing organic forces to the fore. Norwegian textile artist Friis explores the body within, and Iraqi artist Athar studies the turmoil coming out from this same body.
From afar, the pieces of fabric knitted on the wall appear as sculptures. Closer, the details strike as veins, or parts of organs; open wounds in the process of an operation. The feeling is morbid and strange, but resonates as familiar. The mysterious missing parts entice us to explore the surfaces of the sculptures placed on columns around the gallery. The voids act as a counterpart to the excessive presence of the knitted fragments. It seems like there was no limit in the process. Unrestricted in the demolition of the busts, and equally unlimited in the assembly of the threads, the two artists demonstrate the property of balance when it comes to extreme representations.
Friis uses silk velvet or wool, in which she alters the original colour by dyeing them with natural pigments from Norwegian landscapes. The tints span from lichen, birch bark, mushrooms, pinecones and other plants. The colours are thought through and form a homogeneous palette, from salmon and aubergine to crimson hues. I was not repulsed by the fleshy character of the hanging sculptures, but rather curious to feel the softness of the fabric. Some parts of the fictional canvases were draped, and brought close to form small heaps of entwined texture which created soothing sensations, inviting the viewer to immerse themselves into this unusual carnal landscape.
The human body is celebrated through pain. The works from Athar mark a distinctive contrast between the lightweight almost immediate repercussion of an explosion and the strong dense stone. The marble he employs is at times sawed off and at other times blown away. A video demonstrates the process the artist uses through sandblasting, carving, applying acid, and shooting, and as the images stream, we realise the significance of luck and its impact of one’s body, and indirectly on one’s mind. Memories, heritage and beliefs are the direct consequences of an individual’s circumstances through their upbringing or education. Through these sculptures, Athar subtly shows how, in life as in art, the process is almost as important as the result itself.
Together in one same space, the artworks reflect human beings’ intangible composition through the works of Athar, and their physical structure through the works of Friis. The symbolism of the pieces is tangled in their interpretation, yet is clearly distinguishable in their material representation. By displaying used typical busts blown up, and knitted fabric assembled in an unconventional manner, the artists seem to tackle the limitless theme of perfection and how things may appear when they are derived from their ‘normal’ state. Beyond the aesthetics and the reassuring feeling of things to be exactly what they are supposed to be, there is the uncomfortable unease of seeing aspects of life for how they really are.
Disclosing the Uncanny with Hanne Friis and Athar at Kristin Hjellegjerde (1st of April to 29th of April 2017)