Biotech artist Niki Sperou unpacks at the curious art practice of Adelaide and Berlin-based Ariel Hassan who uses science, philosophy and politics as well as paint, canvas and polyurethane foam to make work embodying action, reaction and the connectivity between all things.
According to scientific evidence, the earth is surrounded by a finite body of water that is subject to forces; deposition, sublimation, evaporation, condensation, freezing and melting. These transfers of energy bring forth changes that occur due to an interconnected series of cause and effect. Water, never actually lost, reconfigures into different states and places.
Argentinean-born artist Ariel Hassan speaks of the connectivity between all things. His work embodies action and reaction. Emerging primarily as a painter, Hassan also experiments with constructs that span the nexus between painting, sculpture and installation. Paintings begin as a type of physical action; a series of random events. Wet media are poured onto glass plates and allowed to dry. The initial aim is to distance the work from the artist's hand; to disengage notions of style and ego. Hassan then acts as a conduit of change, digitally selecting, altering and refining his images in order to elicit further vigour. Finally the work is painstakingly recreated in fine brushwork so elegantly wrought it appears to be the product of mechanical reproduction. Strange and wonderful contradictions transpire. The mechanical and fluid merge seamlessly, and in an attempt to avoid style, one has emerged. Fluidity, according to Hassan, is his flag or standard.
Eighteenth century Scottish philosopher David Hume stated that causation forms a link between the past and the present and no idea or action exists entirely free of association. Wetness, for example, brings forth notions of corporeality. The ancients, assigned fluid elements to the body; choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic and sanguine; these humours forming temperamental blends signified all manner of emotional states, affecting mental capacity and self-awareness. To temper was to mix; it was believed that the human condition could be altered by manipulating their proportion. Hassan’s 'HFV Project' (Hypothetical Future Values) series of photographic and painted portraits are connected by a dark fluidity, a type of malaise that contrasts strongly with subjects who are clearly in the flower of their youth. These black and white images express the Turkish notion of Hüzün, a communal sense of emotion to do with loss, longing and hope; emotions shared by those beyond the pale. Dandies too come to mind since Hassan has a charismatic nature and an inquiring mind. An informal discussion with the artist might include subjects philosophical, scientific or cultural. Big themes emerge. However one can sense that for Hassan, a sense of balance is the highest good. His sculptural work allows him to express his playful side. The exhibition at Greenaway Art Gallery 'Today all your plans are going to be successful!' engages the melodramatic as the gallery space is showered with science-fictive meteors frozen in time. A sense of tongue-in-cheek optimism is evident in the title of this work and others. Hybrid pairs of awkward 'hand feet’ take his 'Ghost' paintings for a metaphorical toddle into the gallery space. This call to action turns on its head the notion of painting as passive object to be viewed. The floor work 'Mathématiques modernes' might be considered in a similar vein. Paul Greenaway suggests that it interferes with the space it occupies . Moorish tessellations exemplify connections and present another personal link to Hassan’s cultural heritage.
Interlocking three-dimensional structures, both fluid and geometric, are clearly models with conceptual significance. Hassan’s maps and templates suggest mathematical principles which repeat throughout natural and cultural systems. These diagrammatic elements were evident in earlier works. A giant kit formskull ('from North to South'), was shown in 2008 at the Samstag Museum’s 'Uneasy: recent South Australian Art' exhibition. The famous cause and effect ‘fishbone’ diagrams of Kaora Ishikawa  seemed to manifest in Hassan’s 'Last love scene' shown at Greenaway Gallery the same year. However Hassan elucidates that these crystalline structures are models of the most political of bodily fluids, blood. In its dried state, blood morphs into a type of geographical topography, sharp and angular.
'Again and again and again' features a humanoid body comprised entirely of these crystals balancing over a patchwork of tumbling blocks, posing not only an alternative visual imagery for corporeality but other states in general. Regarding the relationship between the interlocking plywood 3D pieces and the vinyl digital floor work, Hassan explains, "I was looking at a way to present the work and I tried different platforms. I thought it was stronger directly on the ground than on a podium. I believed it helped people identify with the sculpture/ body, dying or in transition, rather than to view it as an inanimate object...This gave me the opportunity to make the floor work 'Mathématiques modernes'. I had been playing with the idea of art that overturns its reality. Not independent from but bonded to the architecture, it affects our perception through the transition of space as we step on the work rather than maintaining a respectful distance…" He makes no immediate connection between the works beyond the binding sinews of paradox and balancing acts; fluidity against hard geometry; or larger structures formed via the organisation of smaller elements in tension. Again we might offer a nod to Hume, for whom complexity is the accumulation of simpler parts or actions. However, whilst clearly acknowledging that nothing exists entirely free of extra connotations, Hassan is primarily interested in the contemporary. It is a certain freshness that he seeks. Rather than dwelling on any particular reference it is the captured moment that is presented. "I’m interested in your take on things", is his open-ended invitation.
In 2008 Hassan was selected for participation in Primavera, the annual emerging artists exhibition at the MCA, Sydney.His solo exhibitions are; 'Today all your plans are going to be successful!; A few people laughed, a few people cried, most were silent; Internal Relationships and Shield'. In mid-January 2011 a one-person presentation of his work will be held at Art Stage, Singapore. He lives and works in Adelaide and Berlin.
1- Paul Greenaway, Exhibition notes 2010, Greenaway Art Gallery website, www.greenaway.com.au
2- Kaora Ishakawa was a mid 20th century industrial quality control and management guru.