About the work

STELLA HAMBERG

ABOUT THE ARTIST

 

  STELLA HAMBERG Tatù - for no reason, 2004
     Tatù - for no reason, 2004
Polyurethan and artificial marble
173 x 43 x 29 cm
Stella Hamberg’s sculpture is balanced between reality and fiction. The figure is realistic with regards to both size and characterisation yet it contains obvious fictitious elements too. It speaks directly to the viewer’s empathy and physical presence but at the same time one never doubts the fact that it is merely a sculpture.

THE WORK GAZES BACK
With its firm gaze and its proud reserved demeanour Tatú – for no reason has a powerful charisma. The proportions of the figure are slightly off: The body is a little reduced, whereas facial features and eyes are enlarged. This only increases the figure’s expressive and strong, sensuous effect.

The exotic looking character is surprisingly lifelike – but at the same time manifestly an image. The vivid face paint and the rough treatment of the body accentuate the sculpture’s fictitious character, as if it had just stepped out from a story. The sculpture creates a paradoxical and sensuous presence in the room but it does not strive for any convincing optical illusions or trompe l’oeil effects.

Hamberg says of her sculptures’ ambiguous oscillation between realism and fiction: - I want people to experience my sculptures as pictures and not as realistic renderings. My sculptures are imaginings of real people.

Yet Tatú – for no reason stands before us in the room almost as a physically present person. The sculpture meets our gaze, it looks back at us and thus robs us of the undisturbed role of viewer or voyeur that we tend to adopt in encountering lifeless objects of art.

Facing Tatú – for no reason the viewer is the one who watches and at the same time the one being watched. In this way the work mimes the fundamental human experience it is to stand in front of another person. Meeting Tatú, the viewer is also made aware of her almost instinctual desire to decipher this other person and establish what type he is.

COMPOSITE IDENTITY
Tatú – for no reason is a complex person who refuses to be explicitly deciphered. Does the sculpture portray a woman or a man? Is the person of Oriental or European heritage? Is it a contemporary or historical figure? The figure’s identity remains enigmatic. With this hybrid and ambiguous person, Hamberg points to the culturally governed urge to define people within fixed categories such as gender and race – and to how little in many cases these categories can tell us.

Tatú – for no reason can be regarded as an image of complex human identity which becomes increasingly pertinent in today’s globalised society. The sculpture is filled with historical and geographical references which refuse to combine into one fixed meaning: The figure is inspired by a Chinese actor wearing traditional makeup in a movie poster. The name Tatú, however, is Mexican and means armadillo. But Hamberg chose the name because it sounds like “tattoo” – just as the figure’s makeup resembles a form of tattoo. Why all these references? Maybe, as the title informs us – “for no reason.” Ultimately it is left to the viewer to devise his own image of the sculpture’s composite character.

ON A FIRST NAME BASIS
Tatú – for no reason's presence and verisimilitude is typical of Hamberg’s human depictions. She wishes to make her sculptures readily intelligible to the viewer and characteristically she does not equip them with long explanatory titles but merely with names like “Tatú,” “Abel,” “Helen,” “Maria” or “Birger.”

Hamberg strives to create immediate and uncomplicated art which the viewer can be “on a first name basis” with. She says: “In my art I look for new ways of understanding the world. Many people are insecure about art because it is talked about with so much theory. My sculptures are a kind of statement to break down the walls so that again we can become confident and intimate with art.”

Stella Hamberg’s art in general
Hamberg’s sculptures often depict composite figures in transitional phases: Between past and present, between male and female, between child and adult, and between different cultures.

Her figures appeal very directly to the viewer’s imagination and empathy rather than symbolising a complicated theoretical idea. Hamberg seeks an immediate and sensuous effect in her sculptures: “Art should not be informative – it is not speech or language. Rather, art is an atmosphere, a scent, mood or temperature that can speak to you in a different manner.”

THE FIGURATIVE SCULPTURE
In contrast to abstract sculpture which dominated the modernist art of the twentieth century, Hamberg employs an intelligible, realistic and narrative idiom. Thus her sculptures take a leaf from the book of 1960s pop art which derived inspiration from the recognisable pop cultural images that surround us on a daily basis.

Whereas pop art focused on cultural stereotypes such as movie stars, housewives and cowboys, Hamberg’s figures are more ambiguous. They are complex and occupy a position between different cultures and between past and present. With these enigmatic figures Hamberg depicts a human identity caught between tradition and modernity – between a basic human foundation and the complex globalised reality of today.

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