Iris Hässler, German born and raised, now living and working in Toronto, has a delightful new body of work currently exhibiting at Daniel Faria Gallery. The exhibition titled Ask the Frog features a collection of skillfully-made sculptures, composed of an array of found fabrics cast in milky-white wax.
The title is quickly explained upon entering the exhibition when a white ceramic frog greets you from atop a plinth. It looks like the sort of knick-knack you might find buried in the belongings of an elderly relative. He offers up cards with hints and warnings for our future lives. The ambiguous, potentially useless fortunes function as the questions we ask ourselves, as we wonder, going about our domestic routines. Some are humorous, while others are unsettlingly opaque. They’re all entertaining but pretty useless.
The works are installed strategically within Faria’s warehouse space, utilizing corners, plinths, and ceiling piping to anchor her works. The column-like blocks sit at varying levels, from atop plinths to the floor. They’re positioned at various points throughout the gallery, leading the viewer to walk around them, giving way to be viewed at a number of angles.
The sculptures are blocks that give bloom to long cascading fabrics in a variety of soft whites, peaches and pastels. They lie crumpled on the floor, stretched across the room, hanging from the rafters above. The fabrics: curtains, blankets and bed sheets, are the artist’s own. Collected over the past thirty years, they bear in them lives lived and domestic stories told in their worn corners and faded hues. The life that the fabric folds hold comes to a distinct yet graceful halt as they are frozen in blocks of opaque wax, as memory too, is frozen in time.
I wonder, sheepishly, if perhaps my own visceral attraction to Häussler’s sculptures can be simply explained in light of the classical aesthetic that has come into trend over the past few years, infiltrating blogs, forums and galleries. The juxtaposition between digital mediums and the historically loaded mediums of marble and drapery are a common occurrence these days. Perhaps it’s just a happy coincidence, ringing Häussler into relevance for a younger generation.
Overall, the exhibition is thoroughly thought out: it’s strategically executed while maintaining grace and whimsy. The artist’s work runs in line of many artists working within the theme of domesticity before her—it has feminist airs, but is not exclusive in its reach. It appeals to universal themes of dreaming, memories, domestic living, and our emotional relationship with objects, particularly those that perhaps played a background role in our lives. It is evident here that Häussler is appealing to her interests in the ambiguities of life: the memories we hold, and the reality that there are no definitive answers, which is both frustrating and inspiring.
Iris Häussler: Ask the Frog, June 11 – July 25, 2015, Daniel Faria Gallery, 188 St Helens Avenue, Toronto, Ontario