Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mike Hansen at James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove

If I had to choose just one word to describe Mike Hanson’s early works on paper currently on display at James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove, it would be this: Puke-y.

Maybe it was that I was incredibly hung-over from the night before (poker, Scotch) and that that very morning had vomited an evil-looking, purple, viscous liquid into my toilet just before the long drive to the Pouch Cove gallery. Maybe it was the fact that when Angela, Jim Baird’s partner and hostess of the opening offered me a glass of red wine upon my arrival, my stomach, the source of many a mysterious sound and much pain that day, threatened to propel it’s meagre contents onto the gallery floor. Maybe it was that one of Hansen’s pieces has the word BARF stencilled across it. Whatever it was, upon seeing Hanson’s early work, the colours and composition did nothing but remind me of regurgitated food.

This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Hansen’s earlier encaustic works on paper (circa 1997-98) entitled the It’s Your Call Series are very weak when compared to the newer mixed media works on display. They look muddled and static and have none of the luminosity encaustic work has in the hands of a more skilled artist. There is a tepid attempt at criticism of post-modern art in Hansen’s collaged in photos of Jeff Koons’ Puppy and a Basquiat painting (stencilled with the words DUH, and EGAD respectively) which do nothing for me aside from reveal Hansen as something of a dimwit when it comes to skewering art he doesn’t like. The inclusion of Chinese Hell Bank Notes (traditionally burned to lessen the time an ancestor’s soul must spend in the Underworld) likewise left me cold as they only seemed to make the composition even less dynamic, more cramped and added nothing interesting conceptually.

Did you ever notice how when after you puke it’s like the hang-over just recedes and you can begin to concentrate on getting better without all that poison in your guts? It seems like that’s what happened to Hansen. Bigger, crisper, cleaner and immeasurably less puke-y, the newer works blow Hansen’s older stuff right off the gallery wall. It’s like he had to purge all the bad stuff from his system. From 2002-03, Vivasection and Storm show a confidence in gesture and handling of materials lacking in the It’s Your Call Series. I kept coming back to one piece, Gideon’s Holy Bibles (2003), a simple drawing of a precariously stacked column of red bibles looking as though they might fall right off the page onto the floor.

It’s interesting to note that Hansen’s recent move to Toronto from Newfoundland has brought out themes in his work related to the traditional iconography of visual art in this province. Fish, landscape and religion are a recurring preoccupation in the new stuff.

It’s also interesting to see an exhibit in which a sampling of an artist’s development over a five-year period is shown in the same space. It makes the earlier, puke-y works more understandable and necessary as growing pains in Hansen’s continued progress as an artist, though they sure didn’t help the health of my intestines the first time I saw them and they make the show as a whole feel more than a little uneven.


Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

I read this here and in the Current. I guess the key to getting a totally positive review is to make sure the reviewer has plenty of sleep the night before.

I'm wondering about this gallery in Pouch Cove. I mean, I just know that I won't be able to see it as an art lover who doesn't drive. Maybe carpools could be arranged. Field trips? Is that what they mean by cultural tourism? Is there a website and can it do any justice to the work? I'mnot saying that all art shows should be within walking distance of my crib, more lamenting my lack of mobility. Social (I wasn't invited to scotch and poker) and spacial. Janet Davis is doing some pretty cool things up in Wesleyville both at her printshop/gallery and with the Bonavista North Regional Museum and Gallery. This is a question about art out over the underpass. It has only been in the last three years that Grenfell minted artists who weren't already from the Capital City have had any luck showing in the city. Michael Pitman, for instance. But wait this comment section is for comments on the show (or is that comments on the review?). OK. toast is up.

10:33 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I still visit this website and enjoy reading the reviews but i have a question. Has this place died or something? Part of what i liked was reading all the responses as well. That's Newfoundland for ya.
I'll leave that open ended maybe i'll get a bite.

1:08 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

joseph: I've linked to the Baird site through the title of the review. The gallery is really beautiful. Big, bright rooms and concrete floors. It reminded me (fittingly) of PS1 in New York.

I likewise don't have an auto, and had to get my dear mother to drive me out to Pouch Cove. It didn't do much for developing my public image as an art scene-ster with my mom waiting in the car for me as I nosed around the galleries.

Anonymous: It's partly my fault for not posting more often, but I've found that people get more upset if I write a strong negative opinion about something and lately the work I've seen has been pretty strong. I know there are a lot of people lurking here without commenting.

4:15 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey craig, that is good to know.
that people are still lurking and that the work has been strong. I don't have to take it upon myself to sound ignorant or be an overall ass. I would sometimes rather take that role in order to provoke discussion. I need to get a life.

7:05 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Pouch Cove Gallery is only open the day of the opening-- if you are trying to carpool you had better email for an appointment. The day I visited it was deserted-- no one there at all.

4:07 p.m.  

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