Lisson Gallery at Frieze London 2023
6 September 2023
Lisson Gallery presents a solo booth by the US-born artist, Van Hanos, conceived specifically for Frieze London, featuring all new paintings that continue to explore and expand our understanding of the medium. Hanos describes this new series as “Viennese”, inspired by recent months spent as a voyeur in his new home city of Vienna, appreciating the novelty of discovery and the pursuit of the familiar in the unknown. The presentation follows Hanos’s solo exhibition, Twin, at Lisson Gallery London in 2022-2023, in which the artist’s close community in Marfa – where he lived at the time – took centre stage through a series of portraits and allegorical vignettes. Through those paintings, Hanos documented a chapter of his life, and here the artist continues this autobiographical journal into the process of navigating a new city, somatically and psychologically. The resulting body of paintings is ultimately about identifying connections between people, places and objects that were not pre-conceived or perfectly paired. This serendipitous manifestation, a visual representation of the meaningful coincidences and moments that pass us by often without detection or recognition, is evident in individual paintings, but also exists in the spaces between the images.
Featured is Still life with Polizei in which an image of a luxurious banquet of fruit, lobster and fine tableware serves as the backdrop for a police car on the pavement in front. The work reconsiders the Dutch artist Abraham van Beyeren’s painting, Banquet Still Life, which welcomes viewers, via a large banner, through the façade of Vienna’s Dom Museum. Van Beyeren’s painting, a cautionary tale of excess and a reminder of the transience of life, itself incorporates a self-portrait of the artist hidden in the large silver jug. While Hanos was observing this scene outside the museum (and considering creating a reproduction of this reproduction), a passing police car stopped, reflecting in its windows the Cathedral across the street. Collectively, we see two institutions of systemic control foregrounded by a memento mori of a painting.
Another work that combines fleeting snapshots experienced together is Sex Dolls. Featured here is an advert for a strip club outside an antique shop, alongside two cherubic babies kissing and the reflections of windows and doors, nodding to the use of the window in art history – a tool often used to introduce another image plane. This concept of paintings that appear as if looking through something is, in Dutch painting, referred to as “doorkijkje”. These objects serve as a symbol for the lens through which we encounter the world, and how we frame our experiences.
Alongside this is Power on Land, focusing on the ‘Power on Land’ monument at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, opposite the paired ‘Power at Sea’ fountain, which both memorialise Austria’s military and naval victories. The ‘Power on Land’ statue depicts a heroic nude waving his sword triumphantly atop a ledge where beneath men fall, clinging to a ledge and fleeing from an eagle. The figure that Hanos specifically highlights is seen strenuously holding up a boulder, perhaps a reference to the Titan Atlas in Greek mythology who was responsible for bearing the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. This painting, featuring the intense stare of this fictitious character, is the only moment in the exhibition where the viewer is engaged directly with the gaze of a figure.
Other paintings in the exhibition, both large and small-scale – including Der Rosarote Panther costarring a large pink cuddly toy visible through a shop window, a lady taking a photo of another woman’s puppy in a rucksack, and an advertising image for a nail salon – all similarly record Hanos’s walks across Vienna and reflections on what it is we are drawn to, especially as a traveller in a new place, out of all the paraphernalia we intuitively disregard. Each painting captures a quick, transitory moment – a contrast to the speed at which they are created, intentionally at a slow pace through tracing, underpainting and the multiple finishing coats – resulting in a picture in motion, an ephemeral dance of chance occurrences that doesn’t exist in the following moment.
Van Hanos, Beyeren’s Banquet, 2023, Oil on linen, 60 x 75 in © Van Hanos, Courtesy Lisson Gallery