Ariel Hassan is primarily a painter, but his practice extends to sculpture / installation and photography. The title of his latest exhibition Today all your plans are going to be successful! is patently ironic, as the viewer, who is invited to have a great day will be confronted by demons; the ghosts generated from memory, anger ,frustration, fears and phobias temper the greeting. This exhibition is triggered from a more personal perspective than some of the more analytical investigations in his previous shows.
This new exhibition has a degree of theatricality a shower of meteors about to hit; paintings on hands and feet, prepare to give chase; a colourful and noisy, immersive upper level of the gallery (with a fragmented figure lying on its surface). All elements induce a smile, as everything is held in one suspended moment, like the pause button pressed on a recorder. Moments of transition between not only the obvious binaries of destruction and construction, beauty and decay, the real and the hallucinatory, but a weaving of complex secondary and tertiary issues associated with such polarities. One may smile at the surprise of it all, but the exhibitions origins owe more to the theatre of the absurd than comedic traditions.
Objects falling from the skies or heavens conjured superstition for thousands of years, spoken of as gifts from the gods or bad omens from angry spirits. (Misunderstanding about meteors lasted until the early nineteenth century.) The title of the exhibition (a variation of a line from American poet John Giorno's Just say no to family values) is also the title of the work Today all your plans are going to be successful! in which visitors are confronted with a shower of meteors as they enter the gallery. Arrested from their high-speed trajectory, a moment before impact, we can appreciate the pure beauty of these celestial objects. The poem deals with fear of the moral majority, the fundamentalist viruses that threaten to destroy us," says the poet; in Hassans work fear is more akin to the thoughts and emotions experienced, not unlike the moment of realisation (too late) that you have dropped an egg. Before it hits the ground, you may fear the consequences, but simultaneously you can even love its fate. The meteorites may also be read as extensions of the black blobs found in Hassans earlier paintings.
From Homers Odyssey to contemporary cinema we have been told of ghosts, vapors and poltergeists. Hassans non-specific ghosts are his and ours; they are not the ghosts of popular culture, they need not be named; they can taunt, haunt and tease, or we can turn and confront them head on. Ghost 1, 2 &3 represent the beginning of an anticipated series of seven paintings, each standing (on hands or feet) freely within a space. These large canvases, which are not as they may first appear, should not be dismissed as early forms of abstraction; fine handwork (through meticulous painting) undermines the initial impression of casual chance generated by random paint mixes. The very loose figurative elements in these paintings were found in the original incidental paintings, sometimes described by the artist as provoked accidental paintings.1 This is not a question of the value of labour versus the value of concept, since for Hassan process is part of concept.
Waters are wiser than we is the title of a poem by contemporary Turkish author Fazil Hüsnü Daglarca, and the title of the five resin casts that indicate the consequence between force and inertia as the vacuum that existed between these objects and their opposing counterparts dissipated. Reminiscent of organic growth or roots or branches, these low relief panels beg tacit questions about the notion of putting down roots or looking for your roots. Linking diverse fields of knowledge in tandem with the artists personal aesthetic produces a critical way of thinking, with a by-product that comes close to beauty, interpreted here in the classical Greek sense. The Koine Greek word for beautiful was, hōraios, an adjective that derives from the word, hōra, meaning "hour." Beauty was thus associated with "being of one's hour." A ripe fruit (of its time) was considered beautiful, whereas a person trying to appear more youthful would not be considered beautiful.
Mathématique moderne, which brings to mind 1960s concepts of mathematics or the 1970s French new wave band of the same name, exists here as a floor work that interferes with the dynamics of the space it occupies. Islamic design looked at achieving a universal harmony in the repetition of geometric patterns; Hassan interleaves this geometry with his own fluid paintings in a surface that threatens to destabilise the ground the viewer stand on. Control and chaos are at play, resulting in simultaneous clarity and obfuscation.
This cacophony of rich colours and shapes mellows en masse and provides a platform for Again and again and again and again, a 300 piece segmented or fractionised reclining figure, whose abstracted form is poised motionless and suspended, teetering on the edge of a sudden change, ready to animate or reconstruct itself at any moment, or conversely collapse and even die. This work, which relates formally to the artist's earlier blood crystal installation Last love scene from a 2008 exhibition, extends however into a more complex system, more reminiscent of a Futurist sculpture than the pixilated computer imagery skillfully handled by Anthony Gormley. Hassans units are not stamped out mechanically; each wooden plate is sanded by hand and given several coats of paint individually. The title of the work therefore mocks the act of production.
Hassan is not comfortable with perfectly fitting analysis; titles of works dont always have a direct relationship to the work itself .The seemingly high finish of the works can mask the rawness that triggered the work initially (all works have a high production values and a rigorous philosophical underpinning). He constantly questions the legitimacy of his expression and practice, concerned that his complex examination of various binaries may synthesise a whole and in turn represent only a reflection of a standardised reality, where Art becomes another aspect of life, as opposed to offering a critique.
Artists may embrace, resist or even try to influence the ever-changing reality they find themselves in an exponentially growing network of socio-economic globalisation; of increasingly complex cultural exchanges and shifting values marked by the interconnectedness of all things. In this current body of work, rather than reflect, interpret or dissect the state of the world, Ariel Hassan endeavours to capture and highlight a split moment of time, thereby extending time and allowing the audience the space to ponder.
Hassan orchestrates his tableaux from a current concern with fears and phobias part of the complex web of propositions hinted at by the author/artist.
Hassan was in Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008 and has exhibited in Berlin, Basel and Spain. This is his third solo exhibition at Greenaway Art Gallery
. The exhibition opens on February 24 and ends on March 21, 2010.