Cooper Cole, Toronto
March 19 – May 6, 2017
Instead of a white cube, Elias Hansen’s exhibition at Cooper Cole feels like a DIY laboratory. Throughout the gallery hang glass sculptures, colourful light installations, and plywood wall shelves holding dusty glass beakers and vials. Empty and hollow, each vessel seems like it was taken from your grandfather’s cottage shed, relics from a past era.
Refreshingly, the exhibition features all quirky glass and light installations. Hansen’s scenes populate and balance the space, creating a dimly lit and immersive environment. Using worn plywood, glass vases, neon lights and various garage paraphernalia, the artist provides accessible and inviting Canadian cultural signifiers that can entice viewers to ponder the artifacts’ history. Glowing auras of vivid colours emanate from the carefully hung bulbs that intertwine and protrude from Hansen’s sculptures.
Each artwork’s assemblage is precariously built, as if it can topple at any moment. Hansen’s haphazard objects mirror their eloquent glass counterparts, as wispy as they are delicate. Made from hand, these works act in resistance to their usual “mass-produced” status as beakers, vials, and other containers. The artist’s touch is made apparent here, infusing these glass sculptures with personal back stories. Lit from nearby colourful bulbs, each vase appears as an elevated art object within a careful balancing act.
There are some satirical moments within the exhibition, as well. On one of the shelves lies a playing card with a nude model posing on the face. Possibly meant to make apparent the male gaze that infects much commercial gallery practice, Hansen also includes a postcard of a beautiful seaside villa. Could he hint at the promises of art, vacations and beautiful people? Within his installations also sits a beer-bottle chandelier next to a wheelbarrow, TTC transfers and a Canadian Tire bucket containing a speaker that lowly emits ambient noises. Hansen’s installations feel like elements out of fictional stories. Frozen tableaux of maniacal chemistry scenes tease more intimate and hazy backgrounds unknown to the viewer. Charged with the personal touch of the artist, Canadiana signifiers, and bright neon lights, Hansen’s exhibition seems like a moment within an untold story.
Taken together, Hansen transports the viewer from a starkly lit gallery into the back warehouse of a tinkering chemist. In doing so, he touches upon the affect of light and form. Balanced and subtle, his works all exist to be the mid-page of a longer book. As far as commercial exhibitions, Cooper Cole has done a wonderful job in inviting an artist to truly exhibit strange feelings and curious moments.