Athar | Hanne Friis: Disclosing the Uncanny

1 - 29 April 2017







PRIVATE VIEW 31th of March 2017

6:30 - 9:00PM


1st of April – 29th of April 2017


Organic shapes seem to pulse with life on the walls, hanging in unctuous fleshy folds, like slow-dripping molasses. They are organic, ribbed like the undersides of mushrooms, like a coral reef, or like writhing heaps of worms, snakes, noodles, intestines, frozen in place, static yet moving. They are like wasps’ nests, organic hive structures at once tantalising and making you recoil. Nearby are perfect white marble heads, classical busts from the hallowed halls of antiquity. Except they are blasted, broken, noses bent, eyes gouged out, parts missing, sliced off, lopped off, blasted away into oblivion. This is a weird room of bodies you are entering – they are present in their absence, in the suggestion of skin coloured velvet, of suggestive crimson, of human shapes familiar in their grotesque manipulation. In Disclosing the Uncanny (31st of March – 29th of April 2017) at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, Norwegian artist Hanne Friis and Belgium-based Iraqi sculptor Athar explore the fragility and visceral presence of the human body.

In the works of Hanne Friis, opposites collide in a litany of seeming contradictions – order/chaos, beauty/grotesque, natural/artificial, inside/outside, or, as she refers to herself, “Baroque-minimalist”. The drama, sensuality and movement of Baroque art find themselves translated into Friis’s minimalist aesthetic through her unique treatment of raw material. Creating tactile sculptures, she carefully hand dyes textiles with pigments she has collected from natural materials she has foraged from the Norwegian landscape and her surroundings, such as lichen, birch bark, mushrooms, pinecones and other plants. This process, while time-consuming, imbues the fabric with soft, almost otherworldly yet, fundamentally organic colours. She then painstakingly begins to fold and bunch the fabric by sewing with a tiny needle.


The resulting sculptures here are made of materials such as silk velvet or wool, hanging on the gallery walls. “I always work with the space and the tension between different spatial elements,” Friis explains. “I find it interesting to combine the intimate with the large-scale.” These finished pieces bring to mind the human body, their organic shapes familiar, beautiful yet repulsive. “I am interested in the body’s vulnerability and human mortality,” explains the artist, “but also the power and violence of life.” Through folds of fabric or coils of yarn, they give the impression of uncontrollable growth, of burgeoning, swelling, multiplying masses. The soft earthy colours are reminiscent of skin tones and more (for some parts are a deep crimson). Are we looking at parts of a body, or at natural landscapes? “I’m interested in the ambivalence and insecurity that the materials and their colours evoke,” admits Friis.


This visceral element finds resonance in the works of Athar, whose striking stone sculptures explore the expressive potential of the contemporary human body. Classical-style figures and busts are hewed out of marble, only to be deformed, amputated, alienated and manipulated. Limbs are twisted, torsos amputated and faces seemingly sawed off or simply blown away. At other times, they are metamorphosed by hitting the stone for hours in a regular cadence, creating a trance-like, meditative state. Athar gives shape to his subjects’ innermost thoughts, fears, agonies and suffering by distorting his sculptures through a variety of techniques, including carving, sandblasting, acid erosion and shooting. The distortions of stone depict the distortions of an internally tormented spirit, vulnerable to the violence of life. For the artist, a perfect body “is an unsuitable reflection of a person’s physical and psychological fragility.”


For Athar, growing up in various countries in his youth, after a childhood in Florence, has reinforced a sense of belonging that goes beyond geographical borders. This desire for a common human experience, transcending culture and time mingles with the images that permeated his childhood, of the Gulf War, themes of suffering and violence that became a part of the unfortunate fabric of his cultural heritage. As such, it is only when the perfect ideal, the perfect body is manipulated, Athar says, that “it begins expressing a reality representative of the human condition – a condition that finds entropy in its very essence.” This sense of violence permeates each piece, the perfect marble subject to a variety of invasive acts, from being eaten away by acid to being blasted away physically with force. Natural processes, such as rain slowly eroding away stone over millennia are sped up, compacted and forced upon each piece of stone. “The work seeks to highlight an inevitability each one of us is subject to – our very own form of decline,” explains Athar. “They embody an acceptance of time’s natural processes and an acknowledgment of time as an element that bonds us. They aim to stand as a testimony for the possibility of beauty in the face of decay.”


Entering the exhibition space is to enter a strange room of bodies. Friis’s sculpture evades the walls, creating a space reminiscent perhaps of The Upside Down; somewhere fleshy, threateningly organic, pulsing with hidden life. Athar’s sculptures, while hard and cold stone, capture the visceral bloody violence of the human condition, of an ongoing battle with this too, too fragile flesh. There may only be velvet and stone here, yet, somehow, there is flesh everywhere.


 “Disclosing the Uncanny” runs from 31st of March – 29h of April 2017 at Kristin Hjellegjerde





Information for journalists:


About Hanne Friis

Hanne Friis (b. 1972) is a Norwegian textile artist educated at Trondheim Academy of Art. Friis builds on, and challenges, tradition through tactile, handmade and sculptural works. Recent exhibitions include Soft Monuments, KODE Art Museum, Bergen (2015), We live upon a Star, Henie Onstad Art Center (2014), Attention: Craft!, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm (2014), Thousands Threads, Lillehammer Art Museum (2013), and The Norwegian Sculpture Biennial, The Vigeland Museum, Oslo (2013). She is also behind a series of significant public commissions at, among others, Sentralen, Oslo (The Savings Bank Foundation) and The Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Friis is represented in collections such as The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo, Oslo municipality’s art collection, KODE, The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Bergen, Nordenfjeldske museum of industrial art, Trondheim and Nordnorsk Art Museum. Hanne Friis Lives and works in Oslo, Norway. 


About Athar

Athar (b. 1982) was born to Iraqi parents and grew up between Rome, Florence, the Netherlands and Antwerp. Athar seeks to explore the contrasting conditions of violence and beauty that have played a significant role in his development as an artist. Receiving his Master’s Degree in Visual Arts (sculpture) from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium in 2008. Recent solo exhibitions include Works at Galerie Löhrl, Monchengladbach, Germany and The Columbia Threadneedle Prize, Mall Galleries, London (both 2016) and Where Pain Becomes Beauty, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence (2015, while group shows include The Curated Space, Mall Galleries, London (2016). He currently lives and practises his profession as a sculptor and professor of sculpture at his alma mater in Belgium. As of January 2017, Athar is also focusing on a PhD at his alma mater. His work can be found in collections including the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE and the UN Art Collection, FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy.


About Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

Kristin Hjellegjerde opened her gallery in south west London in June 2012 following her move from New York. Named one of the top 500 most influential galleries in the world by Blouin (2015 and 2016), as well as independent gallery of the year by the Londonist (2014), Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery showcases cutting-edge contemporary art from emerging and established international artists, with the central concern being to create an intimate space in which artists can present a coherent body of work within a focused environment. Drawing on her own international background, Kristin Hjellegjerde seeks to discover and develop new talents by creating a platform through which they can be introduced to local and international audiences and by allowing for artistic exchange. Kristin Hjellegjerde also acts as an art advisor for both emerging private and corporate collectors. For more information, visit


For further information and high-resolution images, please contact Kristin Hjellegjerde on