by Katherine Dennis 

There is often a brief moment, between being asleep and awake, where last night’s dream hovers in the mind – near but just out of reach. Have you ever rolled over and tried to explain it to the person next to you? Or record it on a piece of paper? Decipher its meaning through careful introspection? 

Specializing in “nocturnal journalism” Tamara Henderson activates such opaque dreams in a way that confounds yet connects to the viewer. With recent accolades such as the 2013 Sobeys Award short-list and dOCUMENTA (13) Henderson also manages to acknowledge the personal, subjective nature of her art in a time when objectivity and criticality reign supreme. Where others might fear to delve into the depths of the subconscious or concede to this intimate, meditative act, Henderson revels here and creates work that allows others to inhabit an otherwise truly private space. 

Corpse Reviver at Erin Stump Projects manifests the artist’s surreal thoughts into being. On the north wall of the gallery Accent Grave on Ananas  (2013) cycles through it’s dream-like sequence to the all-too-familiar tune of a Hawaiian ukulele competing against the abrasive hum of the 16 mm film projector.  In this vignette the pineapple (ananas in French) is both star and sacrifice.  It plays a dual role, as a mould for a disembodied glass blower whose fine glassworks are displayed on the east wall atop the shelves of coloured sand  and, perhaps, as the artist’s mind pulled open by a bodiless hand that removes the pineapple leaves to reveal an inner dreamworld both seductive and troubling. A close-up of the charred pineapple innards accentuates that unnerving feeling that lingers after even the happiest of dreams.

Compared with her film Henderson’s paintings remain a step-removed from the viewer’s grasp. Each functions as a storyboard for past or future films. These paintings, made of sand, canvas, paint, and wood, hint at tales waiting to be told, but filled with strange, hieroglyphic-like symbols and maze-like patterns, this esoteric language remains rooted in the mind of the artist, not yet translated for its audience. I’m most intrigued by what will come of Gilding in on a Shrimp Sandwich, a current collaboration with Jeannine Han.  But without a Freudian expertise of the unconscious mind the outsider must wait for the artist to finish her analysis and breath life into these otherwise static abstractions. 

The exhibition is open till December 28th at the Erin Stump Projects, 1450 Dundas Street West, Toronto. 


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