When an exhibition has the title Museums have the same problems as unions in the context of the current news cycle, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the artist must be making some big political statement. But while Christopher Hanrahan’s work is often infused with his interest in the political, it’s too sophisticated and too beautiful to ever be didactic.
Sophisticated and beautiful may seem like strange words to apply to the work of an artist with a fondness for materials you can get at your nearest Bunnings, but it’s precisely in his ability to achieve these qualities in artistically unconventional ways that marks Hanrahan’s work out from his contemporaries.
Museums have the same problems as unions is a perfect example of how Hanrahan manages to bring a pathos to a collection of deceptively simple elements and basic materials through a curious combination of hard thinking and a delicate aesthetic touch. Silk banners bearing reproductions from an altered antiquities catalogue hang off crooked, tree-like stands, suggesting the amateur, often hapless, and yes, sometimes crooked, nature of the organisational structures that support our institutions.
Unlike our institutions, however, this work doesn’t need an elaborate framework to support it; the artist has a feeling for what works and it shows in his latest exhibition.
Until 16 June
Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney.
Pic: Christopher Hanrahan, Museums Have the Same Problems as unions, installation view. Courtesy the Artist & Sarah Cottier Gallery.