Collins Gallery, Glasgow until August 16th 2008
Lou Reed had never been to Berlin before he wrote his doomed rock opera named after the then divided city. If he had, it might have been even bleaker than it still is in its current concert revival. Karen Christiansen and Lys Hansen, on the other hand, know Berlin beyond the junkie romance, as a place of institutionalised brutality and a collective psyche split in two.
This summit meeting between Scotland based Hansen and German born Christiansen is a figurative look from both sides now at a past gone mad that should never be forgotten. Hansen’s work is dominated by busy, large-scale dream-scapes (one tellingly called ‘Lust For Life’) in which figures tumble, are beaten or kick-out at their oppressors, coloured deep red and purple like a bruise.
Christiansen’s series of monochrome heads are more defined, less angled, and are even more evocative of their subject. The oversize, monumental heads that dominate the room more resemble ornamental African carvings than anything European.
Christiansen and Hansen are from the generation Jeff Nuttall wrote about in his seminal analysis of the 1960s counter-cultural fall-out, ‘Bomb Culture.’ Already shell-shocked on both sides of the border, the move from guilt to rebellion to impassioned empathy is self-evident. Tellingly too, both artists explore the possibility of new life born into the rubble, be it surviving against all odds or else strangled at birth.
The List, July 2008