‘RayBot RatRay’, woodcut print, edition of 30 signed copies, dimensions: 36 x 43 cm, at the solo exhibition ‘Ghostswimmer’, Format Artspace, April 26th to June 1st 2019. Photography by Anders Sune Berg.

Press Release #37: Karen Land Hansen: GhostSwimmer

April 26th – June 1st 2019

The depths of the ocean, and the mysteries they contain, have always fascinated humankind. For the exhibition GhostSwimmer, the Danish artist Karen Land Hansen has worked her way towards a re-interpretation of the seascape as an artistic motif. Her serial paper works revolve around marine and subsea landscapes as they appear today, with technology and nature increasingly merged.

Karen Land Hansen is concerned with the relationship between humans, nature and technology – with how we as humans exploit, transform and adapt nature and its resources. In contrast to the high-tech character of the topic, the artist creates simple, organic and low-tech works. Watercolours, graphic prints and small engravings bring the works close to us and our sense of nearness and physicality. The paper works revolve around the tactile quality of working at several levels, and the works appear sensuous and fragile in their simplicity, while the visual content in terms of motif points in a quite different direction, towards a more remote and sterile place.

The works take their cue from new research and innovation in subsea technologies that allow human-made devices using AI to either work unmanned or to function autonomously without direct human intervention.

For the exhibition GhostSwimmer, Karen Land has researched and collected images, videos and texts from the world of subsea technology. Below us, the big, blue world that seems so familiar on the surface is ruled by contemporary and future submarine robots, machines and radar systems as well as bio-mimetic, animal-like robots and drones resembling the well-known creatures of the sea. These hybrid robot-marine animals are created by high-tech equipment and covered by cardiac cells from living rats.

All the collected materials have been transformed by Karen Land Hansen and turned into portraits from the depths of the ocean – a robot ray, a shark-tuna by the name of Ghost Swimmer, a turtle called Turtle Bot etc. Each of these are used for specific purposes – assisting with off-shore oil drilling, monitoring the condition of the seabed or for military tasks. The motifs of the artworks serve both as concrete references and as more universal forms and metaphors. As the material is worked up, the motifs are transposed far away from the specific subject at hand. This creates new layers of significance and makes the works equivocal and ambiguous.

For the exhibition Karen Land Hansen has created fifteen new paper works working with a combination of three elements: wood engraving, collage and watercolour. All the wall-mounted works incorporate wood engraving, in some cases combined with watercolour or collage. The exhibition also presents Karen Land Hansen’s unique artist book entitled ’The Sea Is a Treasure’, containing a collection of watercolours. ’The Sea Is a Treasure’ is also the title of an ongoing project (2016-) in various forms and media, and the exhibition GhostSwimmer is part of this project.

Karen Land Hansen graduated from The Royal College of Art in London in 2003. She has since been based in Copenhagen and exhibited both in Denmark and abroad. She often works with specific locations and in different work series related to a particular area of knowledge or a specific event or place. In 2018, she made a permanent, location-specific installation for the Aarhus Bay. She has been awarded a number of grants, last year from the Anne Marie Telmanyi-Carl Nielsens Foundation.

Translation by Morten Visby