In Hanne Friis’ new series of works, forms – sculptural spirals in textile – wind upward in space. The spiral is an archetypal form, a basic principle of construction in botany and biology; as a mathematical figure the spiral is defined as a curve originating in a point from which it constantly moves away. In the molecular structure of DNA the spiral or double helix is a building block, a dizzying ladder that circles around itself. But the spiral can also appear very simply as a doodle, slightly manic scribbles on the paper, formed distractedly and arbitrarily by the hand, as if by a basic instinct.
Friis is interested in the way the spiral embodies a fundamental principle of growth. In ferns we can see this growth unfolding in a graphically stylized way; as a green curl on the point of unrolling and finding its fern-shape. This growth is internally programmed; it cannot be forced. Several of Friis’ new works hang from the ceiling and give the impression of an airy hovering that leaves scope for motion. They gravitate towards the floor but first and foremost aspire upward, like tree trunks. The textiles are expressively compressed; linen material is tightly and laboriously sewn and crimped together in folds and cascades. Friis thus extends the limits of the logic and usage conventions of textile, creating independent, individual forms with an ambivalent status, situated in a productive interspace between sculpture and stylistic décor, inwardness and aesthetic traditions. An interaction arises between delicate drapery and unappealing degeneration. All the same they seem engrafted with vitality.
The densities in the textiles bear witness to the actual process of creating something, an in-depth study, and link up with the cyclic processes of nature. Friis does not imitate the laws and biological systems of nature, but touches on its primal forms in a wild, uncontrollable interpretation. The swelling organic masses tilt towards the mannered because of their obtrusive overweight as something heavy and lumpy. The sculptures range from buds to full realization, blocking the path towards decay and decomposition. The voluminous shapes reveal occasional glimpses of the insides, segments of enigmatic grottos in interaction with waves and peaks.
In this sensing process, the colours are the alpha and omega, a feature that also emerges from Friis’ abstract paintings. Behind the colour shades of the exhibition – primarily grey, chalky white and indigo blue – there lies a long process. Friis dyes the textiles with the aid of nature’s own phenomena such as trees, funguses and plants, through experimental chemical processes. This cooperation with nature gives the works an extra dimension. For this exhibition many of the textiles are dyed with acorns – the favourite food of squirrels and emergency rations for humans. She has also used leaves from the oak tree, and tannins in this material as well as added iron produce the grey register.
The colour palette can be characterized as emotional – delicate nuances are combined with something that goes deeper. One cloth is matte black, with iron’s suggestion of blood. The sensory density makes the cloth form an organic sculpture, a soft and corporeal bundle. In some smaller works we see grey cloth arranged in coils on concrete plinths, and smooth transitions arise between different materials and formal principles. The grey, knurly sensation of something malleable flowing out contrasts with the fixed base. Nature quite physically determines the premises for the works in this exhibition, like the decayed, gnarled forest floor in Weidemann’s paintings, blown deep into an autumn day. Sources, roots and kernels thus send Friis’ material resources out in an urgent spiral.
Line Ulekleiv, November 2019