For his first solo exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Brendan Van Hek presents Some Kind of Love Story.
The exhibition borrows its title from Arthur Miller’s 1982 play which probes the struggle for human connection, set within the plot of a murder case. Considered semi-autobiographical, the play draws upon deeply personal, emotional experience which generalises into universal questions of desire, loneliness and the unrequited. Similarly, Van Hek’s exhibition, while concerned with open-ended questions of love and the nature of relationships and empathy, also begins with personal experience and an ongoing investigation of identity. More broadly, the works in this exhibition illuminate the tension that exists in the physical, psychological and emotional distances between people.
These ideas are represented by the series of sculptures, Untitled, and neon works, Two Colours (both 2011). The sculptures, modeled on pieces of domestic furniture, are located in the gallery as pairs that at first appear to be alike. On closer observation slight variations in the forms appear. While related, these sculptures stand as individuals. Similarly, the sixteen circular neons that span the gallery like a horizon line, also installed as pairs, represent complementary but different components through the use of interrelated colour. Animated by electricity and light, the forms are personified, and the pairs transformed into couples.
The use of paired, readymade objects to represent human figures in the work of Felix Gonzales Torres: twin mirrors, a pair of light bulbs and extension cords, has affected Van Hek. However while Gonzalez Torres’ couples memorialise the relationship of the artist and his departed love, using parallel objects as conceptual portraits; Van Hek’s works represent the unrequited desire, or attempt, to truly understand the feelings or thoughts of another. At the same time there is an acknowledgment of the deep relationship possible between beings, represented through the shared power source connecting the paired objects – implying a common impulse.
The forms may also be read as representations of two aspects of the same person failing to reconcile. In Miller’s play the character, Angela, performs multiple personalities; in Darren Aronofsky’s recent film, Black Swan, the central character in Swan Lake is used as a device to interrogate the conflict residing within the protagonist’s psyche. To continue this idea, Van Hek’s forms perhaps interrogate duality in general: reason and emotion, mind and body, man and woman...
Some Kind of Love Story symbolically explores human relationships and the possibility of empathy.
Tania Doropoulos, 2011