Artist: Kara Hamilton
Exhibition title: Safe
Venue: COOPER COLE, Toronto, Canada
Date: May 13 – June 18, 2016
Photography: images copyright and courtesy of the artist and COOPER COLE, Toronto
COOPER COLE is pleased to present a solo exhibition from Kara Hamilton.
You have been unconscious for some time when you become aware of a steadily fading rhythm. The percussive pace gradually softens as it is replaced in your mind’s eye by the shape of footsteps receding across a stone floor in a distant chamber. By the time you finally awaken to the fact that you have been asleep, the sound has disappeared. The darkness behind your eyes shimmers with the orange-black of afternoon sun pressed through the lids. You blink rapidly, absorbing a first, brief shock of light reflected off a plaster ceiling high above you then instinctively squeeze your eyes shut again. Squinting now to allow your pupils to adjust in the room’s brilliance, you realize that you are flat on your back, not under the sky, but in the middle of a wooden floor in a room that appears to be carved from solid honey. A bath of opaque white sunlight enters through a rear wall made entirely of windows, but falls short of the resin surfaces on the room’s other three sides. Only the narrow vertical columns of mirrored glass that separate the intricate golden panels capture the cool light coming through the windows, tossing it from side to side, back and forth across the room like a single glint refracted in a box of blades. Incandescent sconces fashioned after candelabra spread a synthetic yellow cast over the rest.
As you stand up, your limbs lighten towards tips and toes. Gravity has taken on the quality of an ombré weaving, drawing your head and chest in the direction of the ceiling, though you still adhere to the floor. Below your feet, the finest marquetry technique has been applied at the scale of a room in shades and curves that resemble a French formal garden imposed on some vast plot of dry, infertile earth, while the walls around you seethe with an erotic, vegetal display, though the golden cherubs, fronds, vines, leaves, and women’s heads add no more life to the room than the simulated candlelight emits smoke and flame.
You observe that the walls are made entirely of multihued amber pieces flattened and melted together like used chewing gum, though each piece has been carefully modeled to resemble the leaf of a ginkgo tree, or a fish scale—elegant and repulsive, at once. A few feet away from where you’re standing, a small, filigreed table is attached to the corner of the room, poised there on a single, turned leg like a prostitute amputee. The table holds a reluctant clock face buried among black and gilt leaves. Time passes through it like liquid squeezed back and forth inside a balloon.
Several ornate frames built into wall panels line the room. Some contain additional, inset frames and swags topped by regal crowns and supported by mythological figures, chariots, soldiers, swords, voluptuous amphibians, and papery flowers, every mechanical and anatomical detail sculpted in amber. The frame directly in front of you surrounds a Florentine mosaic assembled from quartz, jade, onyx, and other stones, one of four pictures that punctuate the room like clear eyes in a world-worn face. Each depicts a different sensory perception, except this one, which doubles as an allegory of touch and smell. Two couples frolic among classical ruins. One companion strokes another’s face. A third holds a flower under a fourth’s nose.
– Angie Keefer, from Kara Hamilton’s catalog Old Gold.
Kara Hamilton (b. 1967, Toronto, Canada) studied architecture at the University of British Columbia and art at Concordia University and Yale. She has shown extensively in North America and Europe, at such spaces as Salon 94, EFA Project Space, Kate Werble Gallery, New York; Siegel House, Marfa, USA; Taut and Tame, Berlin, Germany; Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK; G Gallery, Tatar Gallery, Toronto, Canada. She comprises one half of the curatorial team that is Kunstverein Toronto. Hamilton currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada.
Kara Hamilton, Safe, 2016
Kara Hamilton, Speaking Alarms, 2016
Kara Hamilton, Perfect Vision On Reflection, 2016
Kara Hamilton, Amber Wall, 2016