Hannah van Bart’s solo exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery is comprised of 22 paintings. Titled “Places and Beings,” van Bart’s haunting portraits complement the moody still lifes and landscapes to create an unsettling yet alluring show.
Hannah van Bart, Friend, 2018, oil on linen, ph.copyright Anna Kamensky, 2019
“Places and Beings” as a title reflects the broad nature of the works. The beings (whether human, animal, or hybrid), are placed in sketchy contexts: a tilted tile floor suggesting a bathroom, a forest on the verge of destruction, a smoggy scene reminiscent of Monet’s impressionistic France from the Industrial Revolution. The muted color scheme and antiquated clothing of some of the subjects gives the paintings a timeless feel, yet the surreal aspects of obscured time and place make them feel ephemeral; they could be from the future, past, or possibly right now. van Bart’s human subjects evoke Picasso’s forlorn jesters from his Rose Period while the landscapes and backgrounds conjure a more modern, post-apocalyptic and polluted nightmare, together making the work eerily hard to place in space and time.
Hannah van Bart, The castle, 2019, oil on linen, ph.copyright Anna Kamensky, 2019
van Bart uses layering and brush strokes to obscure, and highlight various elements in her paintings. In “The Observer,” the subject’s striped shirt blends with the similarly striped background. While certain parts of the face are defined, everything above the nose is a blurred impression. Despite this, van Bart expertly conjures a mood with sparse detail. The teacup and saucer of “The place,” demand presence. Something normally thought of as delicate and pretty becomes monumental and disturbing. The deep red highlights can’t help but suggest blood, swirling in and splashing out in haphazard destruction. Continuing with a feeling of unease, the cat and dog of “Die Nacht redet,” peer out at the viewer with surprise and vexation as if they were caught doing something they shouldn’t be, or are just plain bothered by the stares of the viewer. van Bart layers the background to create a dark, atmospheric feel. We can’t tell where these animals are but we know that we probably don’t want to join them. Their elongated features and awkward poses do not give off the usual warm and welcoming vibes of beloved pets.
Hannah van Bart, Face to face, 2018, oil on linen, ph.copyright Anna Kamensky, 2019
van Bart’s paintings work well together, while also standing up on their own, each transporting the viewer to a strange and familiar but unfamiliar place. A vacant stare here and a vague backdrop there bring just enough context to leave the viewer wanting more and allowing them to create their own narrative of this desolate world and its peculiar inhabitants.
Hannah van Bart, The Observer, 2019, oil on linen, ph.copyright Anna Kamensky, 2019