In conceptual art the idea, rather than the image, is the piece de resistance, while New Image painting would appear to be its opposite, in that images are often presented in a manner that eludes their usual meaning and forces us to consider them from a fresh perspective. However, these seemingly opposite attributes are synthesized to make for a potent combination in the mixed media works of Kristine Gade Hansen, an artist born in Aarhus and educated in the Design School of Kolding, whose exhibition can be seen at Agora Gallery, 415 West Broadway, in Soho, from July 7 through August 22 (Reception: July 13, from 6 - 8 PM).
Aspects of linguistics and popular culture come into play in Hansen¹s work in a manner that calls to mind the best work of such conceptual predecessors as Joseph Kosuth and John Baldessari. However, Hansen¹s pictorial inventiveness adds a visual impact to her work that is closer in spirit to New Image artists like Robert Moskowitz and Susan Rothenberg. The exquisite balance of semiotic and textual elements in compositions notable for their formal austerity lends Hansen¹s hybrid compositions an intriguingly cerebral quality. Flight and intervention are powerful metaphors in her work for a variety of life experiences. One of her most prevalent symbols is the simple outline of an airplane. Another is a pair of angelic wings. Both are combined, the wings draped over the nose cones of two convey airliners in a painting called “1855”, on which those numbers are also neatly inscribed. That the numbers suggest a date long before such planes existed adds to the sense of mystery which is invariably present in Hansen¹s work, where images taken out of context and stripped of their usual meanings take on less obvious meanings and create entirely new contexts. Here, given the artist¹s recurring theme of intervention, the angel wings suggest a divine force preventing the two planes from colliding.
Handwritten texts also often contribute to the visual variety and literary allusiveness of Hansen¹s mixed media works. Poetic and somewhat obscure, they, too, add to the mystery rather than explicating the imagery. One interesting example of this is the painting called “Aristotle”, where a Star of David is juxtaposed with the philosopher¹s name presented in a clean typeface on a dark background and a handwritten poetic manuscript which seems to express romantic longing with lines like “A deep breath/Whispering in your ear/A connection to a man without boundaries...”
Such incongruities appear to be conceptual ploys for provoking unforeseen connections in Hansen¹s compositions. These are especially successful in paintings such as “Construct”, where the painting is divided into two horizontal panels, the top one containing three overlapping circles with Stars of David within them that merge at their inner edges, the bottom one containing a frontal image of an old-fashioned biplane with the word of the title printed neatly above it.
While one would be at a loss to attribute specific meanings to the various elements of the composition, they resonate on some subverbal level in the manner of concrete poetry. Indeed, it is Kristine Gade Hansen¹s ability to create such inexplicable connections in the consciousness of the viewer that makes her work such an intriguing stylistic hybrid with seemingly unlimited possibilities for further exploration.