Dan Rule: The Age
A resident of Melbourne for the last 11 years, Dutch artist Irene Hanenbergh has become known for her hyperrealist negotiations of fantasy and outsider art. Created whilst in New York, new series Laudanum & De Breeder eschews her often colour-drenched aesthetic. Indeed, these tangled, wispy, overgrown black ink drawings prove austere and minimalist by comparison to Hanenbergh’s more noisy compositions. They’re no less effective. Wispy and fragile, these works hint at organic forms and folk art-like motifs without ever going so far as to reveal a subject. Flowing and plant-like from afar, interestingly, Hanenbergh’s faint lines take on an almost mechanistic quality from up close. It’s an unlikely dichotomy and one that makes the works all the more absorbing. Also included in the show are two paintings of a similar, albeit more colourful ilk.
Natalie King: Art IT Japan
“an intriguing and enigmatic foray into mysterious realms – a make-believe world of furry foliage and turbulent, oceanic landscapes. Infused with a Middle Eastern palette of turquoise and beige, Hanenbergh deftly draws on disparate sources from Iranian folk art to tattoo design, Outsider Art and Nordic legends. Her preoccupation with non-Western compositional devices, where forms are askew, has resulted in hidden and eccentric imagery. Swirling in a vapour of feral remnants, the picture plane is both abstract and visceral.
Born in the Dutch province of Drenthe, surrounded by megalithic burial tombs and a verdant forest, we can speculate on personal allusions in her practice. The autobiographical, however, is carefully hidden. Idyllic and natural forms are embedded in a barely decipherable repertoire of flourishes and luminous folds. Moreover, Hanenbergh studied in Athens and has travelled widely to Iran and Iceland further accentuating her myriad of influences. Titles offer further clues to imaginary places. There is an inherent, romantic alliteration in the exhibition’s title – Vlad July Egoiste. We are reminded of distant resorts and lakeside retreats. She poetically conjoins months, European words and landscape references in a linguistic, free association. The result is an open-ended frisson between fiction and the real.
Paintings are interspersed with zund prints on aluminium, Hanenbergh’s signature medium. She deploys computer software to paint individual and miniscule brushstrokes onto a blank screen. This labour intensive method allows her to zoom in and out in order to paint in a precise and meticulous manner. The outcome, however, is flat as images are printed onto a hand-buffed, aluminium surface. It glows under her obsessive markings. For Hanenbergh, prints and paintings are afforded equal status, sometimes arranged as classical diptychs.
Hanenbergh’s paintings return us to the impasto sensibility of Glenn Brown and the romantic invocations of Karen Kilimnik. Reaching further back in history, she flirts with the misty and sublime beauty of Caspar David Friedrich. Her carefully rendered surfaces are tumultuous with sweeping brushstrokes. Clarity Rocks is suggestive of land formations, glaciers or subterranean amoeba but these floating forms are suspended and devoid of context. In Banc Nord, wildly vigorous flourishes of painterly application are contrasted with the fantastical prints. The digital resides alongside painting in a slippery exchange. Perhaps Hanenbergh is luring us into the technology of painting and the journey is both ecstatic and tantalising.”
Frances Johnson: Metallic magic, The Age
Aluminium is an unsung material surface for painters despite the impact of Britpack "heavy metal" artist, Gary Hume. Irene Hanenbergh, like local compatriot Neil Haddon, reclaims the elemental ground with sophisticated painting and printmaking techniques. Hanenbergh paints and prints dissolving anthropomorphic forms. Highly modelled shapes hover between furry, gothic figuration and arboreal abstraction without descending into mud or easy narrative. They remind me of Gerhard Richter's epic animal paintings, although Hanenbergh's linear backgrounds offer the more controlled emptiness of science fiction rather than Richter's blurred painterly vistas. -
Edward Colless: Catalogue Vlad July Egoiste
This is fantastic art. But we should be more accurate and more generous with that word since, while Irene Hanenbergh’s world is fantastic, the vision of that world is also phantasmic. It’s not a just a finicky difference. Fantasy is capricious, diverting, amusing, a self-conscious sort of play…and there is all that in Hanenbergh’s art. But there is something else. Phantasy, in contrast, arises from idiosyncratic and turbulent depths of the imagination, from the unconscious, and stuns us and holds us captive as it surfaces. A marvellously paranoiac idea manifest in a vision of glory, the phantasm is more than just a beautiful psychic image; it is a beautiful force.
Look into these tremendous storms that silently rip up forests, glaciers, tundra and oceans; that fuse thorny undergrowth, pearlescent flowers, animal fur and claws or human facial features or exotic tattooed skin, fuse these all into fibrous blizzards; and that have in their tumultuous whorl the knotted intensity of erotic nuzzling—or the agonizing intimacy of carnivorous combat—as well as the scale of hallucinatory carnage in deep space when stars explode. It’s surprising to hear the artist speak about these animistic metamorphoses and ferocious incorporations of mineral, flesh and meteorology, of quantum or astronomical cataclysm, as “images of perfection, of happiness”. Despite their vividly gothic resonances, Hanenbergh insists she doesn’t see these scenes as dark. “They are encapsulated moments of control which are worlds in themselves. Worlds within worlds,” she suggests, “like a brilliant blue swimming pool on a cruise ship in the middle of an ocean.” Whether coagulating as visceral clouds or as coral islands or asteroids, these fantastic aggregations are a kind of terraforming: luminous oases of artificiality, of a false—ornamental, even kitschy—perfection, in the desert of the real.
And these happy moments, these inhumanly perfect mages, don’t come easy. When she paints, Hanenbergh obsessively uses a tiny filament of a brush, size triple zero. It matches the digital brush size she uses in Photoshop for the prints on aluminium. Her computer screen is small. She has to zoom in, down to microscopically detailed work, and repeatedly zoom out to see that detail at higher magnitudes. She scrolls forward and back through every step in the history of the image’s formation, reviewing each minuscule modification; nothing is lost, all the right moves, all the wrong moves. It’s a pulse, and we sense it as the fluctuation in a vortex of possible states, even if far away and close by, past and future, mean nothing physical in that digital world. “You have so much control over the image,” she reflects, “you can perfect it, but you’re not physically in touch with it; in a sense it’s a non-existent image.” The unconscious depth of this imagination is cyborgian. And the artist’s phantasm is the force of this immaterial image, a force materialising as the psychic projection of a not quite human—more, or less, than human—state of ecstasy.
“Interrupting fantasia with subtle impurities, walk-ons from the annual circus, a burlesque night-in or a discounted river-cruise, as if to keep everything off-balance and confused, it is felt there are near resources in reserve. If the subject matter and brush strokes aren’t familiar, behind it all, – the stories that don’t add up, the affinities that aren’t explained – is something very difficult to articulate, an experience, an autobiography, a world view, a private self”
“Situated somewhere between non-existent mythical and existent geographical mountain ranges, I might best describe my work as windows of longing or anticipated perfection and happiness. I investigate the Visionary Fantastic form of perfection (and its inherently inverse in imperfection) and Utopian happiness by means of rituals. By using artistic techniques (the rituals), I intend to produce images that suggest a visionary state of perfection or happiness. Exploring a sublime aesthetic that is classically nihilistic and melancholic, the work alludes to ominous situations, but does not reveal them. The work is mostly versatile in subject matter and technique and aims to be elusive and indefinable. Processes and subject matter have become relatively indistinguishable and it is somehow felt, there are “resources held in reserve”. The work is personal but resistant. There is anticipation, a promise of happiness or a sensation of more to come but this promise of openness is constantly deferred.
The repertoire and intent of the imagery relate to the historical origins of Visionary painting drawing on artists such as William Blake, Henry Fuseli, John Martin, James Ensor, Augustin Lesage and Gustave Moreau. As I often use unseen or elusive Fantastic paraphernalia in my work, the symbolic nature acts as a signifier of the Fantastic unseen, a good (perfect) place but at the same time purely imagined. The use of digital processes (a kind of unnatural recreation of symbolic nature) in order to reproduce nature raises the question of what this is ultimately an image of: technique (the ritual) or subject matter (the depiction)?”