Instantly recognisable, and yet, as they have never been seen before, famous architectural landmarks from many different parts of the world have been re-interpreted in this exhibition of paintings by artist Brendan Hansbro.
Many of these works show Hansbro’s playfulness and humour: The Kremlin, sits like a melting iced pudding, covered with an oozing golden topping for its roof. London’s Tower Bridge becomes a bouquet, dotted with red floral blooms in a celebration of spring. Her Majesty the Queen is seen riding in her horse drawn carriage out of the gates of Buckingham Palace, and the Downing Street cat explores the street outside its home, overlooked by two policemen. Hansbro’s depiction of the tower of Big Ben tied in a knot might reflect the turbulent debates held regularly in Parliament nearby.
Other works in this collection show buildings that reflect much more serious, darker and violent times in our recent history. Two ghostly pale towers of the World Trade Centre shimmer against a starry sky, rising up from the area that has now been made into a memorial to these buildings and the lives lost within them.
Further paintings in this series of buildings as ‘ghosts’ represent current conflicts in the middle east. Pale brickwork ghosts of edifices, now destroyed, sit behind what remains of the ancient great city of Palmyra, Syria. These buildings appear as structures with a life of their own, and seem to portray our own human emotions of sadness and fear. Wounded and maimed by bullet holes and left bereft by the destruction of the landscape surrounding them. These buildings, and the story they tell, are a reflection of humanity in its highs and lows - our successes in civilisation and creating beauty in manmade structures, but also society’s worst aspects of conflict, violence and an inability to coexist in our world peacefully.
This is epitomised in the painting of a ruin that is also a portrait of the Syrian Archaeologist, Khaled al-Asaad, who gave his life protecting the ruins of Palmyra. Like an Arcimboldo painting, inanimate features in the brickwork build up a human form. Known for the large spectacles al-Asaad wore, these can be found hidden within the ruin in Hansbro’s painting made in tribute to him.
This important exhibition of Hansbro’s work celebrates the beauty of detail, uniqueness and symbolic meaning of these architectures and their importance to us and our history. Never more poignantly felt than following its wanton destruction, Hansbro laments these architectural treasures that have been lost, and gives us new appreciation of those that remain.