Hannah Bertram
Phœnix in ruins
Palais de Tokyo, Curator : Khai Hori
24.06.2015 – 13.09.2015


“By combining decorative motifs with worthless materials, [my] works offer an alternative experience of preciousness in which value is found not in the perpetuity and richness of ornamented objects, but within subtlety of transient experience.”

Australian artist Hannah Bertram designed three large strips of gold wallpaper adorned with flocked motifs inspired by decorative Victorian patterns. Blossoming from the dust she patiently collected from Palais de Tokyo’s spaces, as well as from the sinuous catacombs and other symbolic places in Paris, and mixed with the ashes from the scraps of her previous works, she will in turn burn the scraps from Phoenix in Ruins to use them in a new creation, perpetuating an endless transformation. Much like the ancient Phoenix summoned by her title, the rebirth of a work from its ashes also underscores the fate of time and the temporality of things. Hannah Bertram brings forth an unexpected connection between decoration, dust and death. The flocking technique, which consists in applying textile fibre, or “velvet dust” as the artist finely puts it, to a sticky surface, has over time revealed the use of toxic elements such as arsenic that insidiously distil their fatal poison throughout the shelter of the home. Bertram also uses ornamentation to examine the versatility of taste throughout time. Her works- composed of worthless materials, dust, ash and other residue left behind by our existence- display complex motifs that evolve then devolve. Their ephemeral nature evokes Buddhist mandalas or Indian kolams and rangoli designs.