Immersive installation – Anthea Hamilton at IBID

Immersive installation - Anthea Hamilton at IBID

Anthea Hamilton’s new show at IBID includes sculptures and wall-based work following on from her recent exhibitions at Chisenhale Gallery and La Salle de Bains, Lyon. Hamilton produces carefully arranged environments in which each sculptural element is autonomous and yet come together in a way that has been described as “three-dimensional collage.”

Often her environments have taken cues from specific, non-gallery spaces, such as the gymnasium, TV studio or swimming pool, while her sculptures act like players within these stage sets – commonly carrying out appropriate routine tasks and rituals. In this way her immersive installations explore such themes as leisure, attraction and mechanisms of desire, creating delicately balanced situations where the viewer is always placed at centre stage. What is so poignant about her work, is the way that it creates interplay between the concept of the gallery and the power of art – where ever that may be.

Central to an understanding of Hamilton’s work is her use of materials. Some of the found-objects present in the current exhibition are taken from popular TV or fiction, for example are a translation of a 2D character into 3D merchandise. Often, they are strikingly removed from their original context (for example, a pin-up poster that was intended as a symbol of desire seems more appropriate to a teenage bedroom than a gallery setting). While her more idiosyncratic assemblages may seem bewildering at times – including a rubber cartoon mask of a character from The Simpsons, an over-sized wrapped cheese fashioned from leather and foam, or a clear perspex chair made from cut-outs of the artists own legs – each are precisely chosen for the specific senses they provoke and the associations they inspire.

More often than not these associations are to do with the body. Indeed, in previous examples of Hamilton’s work her sculptures often appeared like disconnected bodies – figuration was hinted at but never actually revealed. In her new works the figuration remains but in a form that is abstracted even further. Indeed, her sculptures appear more solidly grounded in the idea that they are inanimate objects that work within a wider environment, even with a use value (a chair, a blind, a table), or that they might be chosen in a similar way to furnishings – integral choices that inform a larger set of surroundings within which the visitor is invited to explore and reveal connections.

Whilst Hamilton’s use of ‘poor’ everyday materials – as well as her overall reductionist style and a retro-store colour palette – clearly connect her to a contemporary aesthetic, the effect is anthropomorphic and less to do with the legacy of Minimal Art than a choreography of different feelings and emotions. Issues of titillation and an overtly sensual mood verging on the sexual come into play, in the same way that curator Francesco Manacorda has written of Hamilton that she “is interested in tracing a personal history of love and attraction … in a mapping of the distance between individuals and the objects of their desire.”

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All images © Anthea Hamilton courtesy the gallery.