Mark Hanavan: Alone Together Expressions of Estrangement in the Technology World

December 1st, 2014  |  Published in November 2014

Hanavan’s exhibit is titled and marketed to make a statement connecting  the concept of self with the virtual self of social media and internet technologies. While the constant comment of Twitter, FB, the image clutter of Instagram and other technologies teeter on the edge of the diluvial, the virtual technological presence is not without its obscuring scrim. Hanavan addresses this duality in his world with his portrait portrayal of family and two portrait works of symbolism. In his remarks, Hanavan states that “isolation, containment and longing” are underlying concepts in these pieces.

This exhibit is composed of  a small number of charcoal/pastel drawings, one sculpture and a video loop.

Working exclusively in black and white, the presence of the drawn portrait images hovering illusionally in space is effective. His media is a combination of gray tonal pastels, charcoal, and gouache accents that exist  dimensionally on the surface.

Two anonymous portraits of a man and a woman, entitled “Knowing” are encased in separate recycled glass cabinets. Though they face each other, they are trapped as decapitated, floating likenesses, not engaged with each other or with the viewer. The glass cases symbolically channel the false sense of presence, allowing their caricatures to be seen but not interacted with.

The most innovative work in the exhibit is located in the center of the room, mounted on safety mirror installations. Three same size portraits of the artist’s daughter, wife and grandmother are displayed huddled in a close proximity that projects protection and security within the family context. The pivotal piece is the haunting portrait of Hanavan’s daughter. The child’s countenance, depicted larger than life, is painted with a fantastically designed forehead pattern and a drawn bunny muzzle complemented by her hypnotically mascaraed eyes. She wears an overlarge sequin-studded head dress that is an abstraction in itself. She floats as a sculpted light image isolated in a dark abyss, under glass on the black rimmed dial.  Portraits of the child’s mother and grandmother are positioned triangulated to this dial and are designed as dark figures on light ground. The features of both are revealed in an assaultive vertically descending light which unifies all three portraits. Viewed from a particular standpoint, the reflecting portraits of the mother and grandmother hover in the darkness over the child’s shoulders, simultaneously near and distant.

The facial expressions of all reflect fear and insecurity. Hanavan explodes the spacial dimensions of each head with hyper-realistic treatment of the portrait surface. The landscape of the mother’s face is fully exposed in the unforgiving light. The viewer is positioned inches away from the projecting nose on a brightly lit facial plane, yet hair edges and earrings are distance blurred. The grandmother is portrayed with a large floppy sunhat and dark reflective sunglasses, poignantly extending on the adult level the simple face painting contrivances of the child. The resulting visual portrayal of isolationism and impersonality among family members is chilling.

Other examples including one female nude figure and additional portraits documenting Hanavan’s skill with the media.

Exhibited through November, Sharonville Fine Arts Center, Cincinnati Ohio

–Marlene Steele




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