As we drowse on the threshold between being awake and sleep, time becomes elastic. Thoughts and impressions flow freely, branching out in associative leaps and connections, like flashes of meaning that evade the usual deductions of reason in a twilight zone of consciousness.
A similar dreamlike keynote resounds throughout Jan S. Hansen’s art practice, in which different media, materials and work components are pieced together to form ambiguous allegories of human civilisation. In a form of intuitive anthropological study, the artist establishes different views of how we are formed, behave and develop as individuals and as a society at the intersection of nature, culture and technology.
In the solo exhibition Populus Jan S. Hansen pursues this trajectory in a series of new works that include paintings, stoneware figures, sculptural objects, and small-scale installations. As tableaux or points of observation, the works constitute absurd assemblies, activities and situations in which basic necessities like tools, clothing and food are connected to the more spiritual dimensions of existence, softening the contours of reality and the exhibition space in a surreal way. In one place a white figure is about to sink into the wall, elsewhere a metal cube vibrates in a garden shed, and a pile of cutlery on a coffee table appears to be suspended in a force field eliminating the physical laws of nature. The works thus shift between interior and exterior states and conditions in a visual welding of dualistic opposites and their traditional division of the world.
This interest in going beyond man-made polarities plays out at a material level in Jan S. Hansen’s characteristic juxtaposition of the sterilely industrial and the tactilely crafted. A series of monochrome paintings provides an abstract yet sensuous counterpoint to the exhibition’s repertoire of metallic readymades. In shades of dusty brownish grey that appear more sucked out of than applied to the canvas, the paintings are minimalist compositions made of clumsy seams and embroidery, as well as collage-like textile squares cut out and glued to their surface. Suggestive of horizons, architectural forms and organic growth, the paintings have the character of landscapes or annotations like those of prehistoric cave paintings, which might serve some ritualised or practical purpose, but remain a riddle to the viewer.
Like an updated version of a domestic interior at a museum, the works constitute a synthetic everyday environment, presenting a simultaneously forward-looking and retrospective view of our way of life, as well as our need and ability to adapt to new conditions whilst retaining a connection to some sense of origins. But with its exploratory perspective the exhibition also encourages us to reflect on where we are heading; what we choose to take with us in our collective baggage of norms, habits and values, and what we choose to leave behind. For as the suitcase of broken mirrors in the exhibition reminds us, each era is refracted by multiple perceptions of the world.
Jan S. Hansen (b. 1980) graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2010. He was part of the artist-run exhibition space IMO until 2014, and has participated in solo and group exhibitions in both Denmark and abroad at Huset for Kunst og Design, Holstebro; Galleri Jacob Bjørn, Aarhus; Kunsthal 44Møen, Askeby; IMO, Copenhagen; On Stellar Rays, New York, and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen. His most recent exhibition was at Marie Kirkegaard Gallery in Copenhagen.