Threads of Culture: Tamara Henderson’s Exhibit at the Douglas Hyde Gallery

Sambhavi Sudhakar examines the transcendental work of Tamara Henderson, currently on display in the Douglas Hyde Gallery.

 

In its attempt to weave threads of creativity and culture into a fascinating picture, Tamara Henderson’s Seasons End: More than Suitcases is an achievement in artistic endeavour. More than Suitcases is Henderson’s first solo exhibition in Ireland and is inclusive of fifty art pieces – a collective compilation of her two previous exhibitions in Glasgow and Ontario. The specialty of her work lies in uniting the physical and the metaphysical realms in a harmonious manner. It presents a mixture of objects cast on human-like figures, draped in vibrant colours, and adorned with sundry accessories.

The anthropomorphic characteristics of Henderson’s works are apparent. Each figure is infused with a unique spiritual aura, presented visually in varied colours and designs. Upon entering the gallery, one would observe how every figure is representative of a specific emotional, physical, or psychological state. For instance, three figures on the ground floor of the gallery labelled ‘Sleeper,’ are draped in robes which have designs popularly associated with the night. One such figure depicts the changing phases of the moon.

Another interesting figure titled ‘Disease’ is designed starkly differently from others, given its black sobriety, in opposition to the rich blend of colours worn by others. Similarly, a sculpture that encapsulates Henderson’s artistic talent entirely is the ‘Body Bar,’ which, in depicting the respiratory and circulatory systems, is an animated piece seen breathing in and out amidst a sea of stationary figures. An important appendage to this piece of art is an urn containing the ashes of a burnt figure, which acts as a symbolic reflection of the cycle of life and death.

‘Camera’ houses 16mm films, indicative of both Henderson’s pursuits in film-making and the preservation of moments and memories that define human experience. Quite a few sculptures are given names that are often assumed by people, and display emotions that are startlingly human-like. The piece entitled ‘Brenda,’ for example, is not only an elegant display of ribbon, chain, copper, and satin, but also presents the grace and demeanour of a young lady in how the drapes display drooping eyelids with long lashes.

The figures retain their human-like traits in their regalia, for they are seen wearing shoes that were used by performers in their plays. Some figures are seen wearing fanciful headdresses while others are embellished with mirrors. Some, like ‘Editor in a Suitcase’ contain pencils and notepads that are indicative of the profession. There is a rare sensuous appeal to Henderson’s work, whereby some of the artworks wear robes with pockets containing dried up flowers which emit a strong fragrance. Even the previously mentioned ‘Body Bar’ contains essential oils which lend a lingering scent.

“An assortment of cork, wood, mixed textiles, ribbons, lace, and chains among other things have been brought together in a symphony of artistic splendour.”

The material used to create these pieces are objects people use on a regular basis. An assortment of cork, wood, mixed textiles, ribbons, lace, and chains among other things have been brought together in a symphony of artistic splendour.

Henderson’s philosophy draws from a variety of sources, ranging from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tiffany Watt Smith’s The Book of Human Emotions, to the works of Terence McKenna and the essays of Helen Keller. However, one individual from whom Henderson draws immense inspiration is London based kinetic artist, Liliane Lijn. Lijn’s work is renowned for combining the intricacies of technology with text, reflective of the human condition. Deeply personal and filled with emotion, Lijn’s works explore historical upheavals, the feminine archetype, and the relationship between language and time. The Douglas Hyde Gallery displays her film Look a Doll! My Mother’s Story in salutation of the influence she has had on Henderson’s artistic ventures.

“One aspect central to Henderson’s work is that of travel.”

One aspect central to Henderson’s work is that of travel. Her artwork is a vivid treasury of objects collected on her journeys. Much like the artist herself, the project has transgressed physical boundaries and gained a unique global character. The fabrics used to dress the figures were collected from Greece and Turkey. The dyes used to design them were from plants in the island of Seriphos. It is significant to note that the figures are provided with passport-like documents which attest to their specific identity. Henderson has incorporated remnants of her travels into her artwork. Every piece retains aspects of its parent culture. The abstract quality of Henderson’s work also appears cognisant of a spiritual journey between the human and divine, the tangible and the intangible.

The exhibition Seasons End: More than Suitcases is running in the Douglas Hyde Gallery until May 5th.