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Laconia Gallery


I move to keep things whole

Hannah Cole

Friday, December 4, 2009 to Saturday, January 23, 2010

warped view of car in tunnel

Hannah Cole slows down the momentary visual overlaps between public and private experiences and scrutinizes them, using everyday scenes as metaphors for the erosion of solitude in contemporary life. Cole paints large scale scenarios on shaped panels that picture our commuter existence. She invigorates these genre scenes through an evocative use of multiple viewpoints and silhouette cut outs which make implicit the author’s position as a passenger in a car. The painterly depiction of direct and indirect visual experience using rearview mirrors and car window shaped panels transforms what could be a passing snapshot into a moment of introspection and cultural critique. By giving us a mediated view that has been enlarged and enhanced we are encouraged to slow down, to engage the scene and to look more closely. Stretching time by recording a specific viewpoint has been used in photography and painting for decades but Cole offers us a compelling example of temporality in a fresh new way.

The creation of blurring movement and sharply focused detail in the same painting serves as a reminder of how we see–and how visual clarity depends on what we do not see. Point of view, framing and the objects literally cut out of the image alert the viewer to draw a distinction between this work and documentation. Cole relegates edited out elements to the status of silhouettes which effectively diminishes their pictorial impact while supporting the particular positional relationships of the scene.

The artist observes that, “In an overcrowded world, and in the overexposed era of Facebook and reality TV, driving is one of the few remaining acts of ritual and solitude.” The frame for so many of our visual encounters, the car window, is the stage for an investigation of perception and experience. The windshield is often the invisible division between public and private, between interior and exterior worlds. Being a passenger in an automobile remains a paradoxical refuge in our car culture: both a quiet, protected enclosure and a wide, evocative, constantly changing view of the world outside.

The result of the physical manipulation of the panels is psychological: we see the speed of our contemporary point of view as a memory in our minds eye. Within that view, because it has materialized in front of us, we take the time to momentarily transcend the absent-minded, fast-paced, cacophony of our existence enough to see the beauty in it. Cole gives us back time to ruminate on the sublime immensity of the outside world by helping us visually escape into a moment that becomes a stand-in for our interior world.

– James Hull, Curator

“I move to keep things whole” is from the poem, “Keeping Things Whole” by Mark Strand