Hanneline Visnes: Sleepshapes (4 stars)

Doggerfisher Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 7 Jul 2007


Within Hanneline Visnes’ intricately layered drawings and paintings one finds a multitude of mysterious broken and distorted references, where stories begin yet lead us nowhere. As an artist interested in the long history of painting, Visnes plays with two outmoded ‘Sunday painter’ themes - painterly abstraction and the representation of nature. Her large paintings question the idea of abstract painting as wallpaper or interior design. Wallpaper patterns are loosely copied by hand onto the surface, with floating forms painted over them. In ‘Double Portrait’ finger smears of orange and yellow dance over the paisley pattern-like flames, while in ‘Imperial Purple’ deep purple paint soaks into the wallpaper like a ghastly phantom stain.

The wallpaper implies interiors and the gestural paint takes on a hallucinogenic form so uneasy narratives ensue, bringing the works closer to representation than abstraction. Visnes’ depiction of nature is equally surreal, and deliberately simulated. In the literally titled biro drawing ‘Bird Face’ (pictured) four eagles heads float within a blackened head shape as if conversing, the repetition of the same bird head revealing to us she has ‘broken the rules’ by copying from a magazine page rather than drawing from life. Similarly, in ‘Possessions’, a leopard appears to mercilessly devour a lamb’s body, yet zoom out and this is a picture on an 18th century snuffbox, again hovering over an intricately drawn wallpaper background. Rough corners, nicks and tears left exposed exemplify Visnes’ cheeky, irreverent attitude to her work. Yet her greatest strength is her ability to compose such a striking and memorable equilibrium between multi-layered complexity and balanced, ordered elegance.

(Rosie Lesso)

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