Review: Aegis Hands – “Tears of Time” Sculpted in Sand

Review: Aegis Hands – “Tears of Time” Sculpted in Sand

Aegis Hands, a widely exhibitied and highly respected artist from Iceland, who exhibited recently at Agora Gallery, 560 Broadway, creates his remarkable sculptures from dry sand, without benefit of forms, molds, or special tools. Because of his unusal method, each piece is unique and cannot be duplicated by the artist. Hands favors this medium because, as he states, it has “the flexibility of wood, the softness of clay, the hardness of stone, and the fineness of glass.”

In his present series, entitled “Tears of Time”, Hands employs forms that have been compared to the sculptures of Brancusi and the drawings of Matisse, the former for their dynamic abstract presence, the later for their fluid figuration. These two comparisons could seem contradictory, if not for the fact that Hands´ sculptures are both abstract and figurative in the most literal sense of those two terms. Which is to say, the bold organic forms of his pieces initially appear abstract, with the rounded contours and combination of positive and negative spaces. On closer inspection, however, starkly simplified human emerge from these seemingly abstract shapes. Often these figurative configurations are quite complex, involving several figures with the powerful primitive presence of Precolumbian carvings. Although Hands´ figures are featureless, their postures are expressively distorted and their gestures are animated in a manner that suggests all manner of arduous human endeavors.

In the sculpture called “Eggplay”, for example two interlocking figures appear to be balancing a round form between their bellies. Although the image is hardly specific, it is remarkably evocative, suggesting a symbolic vision of sexual congress or arcane primitive fertility ritual.

In another powerful piece, entitled “The Colossus”, what appears at first glance to be an abstract form with several holes in it turns out to be a cluster of simplified figures climbing one upon the other. Yet other pieces, in which several figures appear to interact or embrace have monumental and emotive qualities akin to the family groupings of the great British sculptor Henry Moore. Indeed, Aegis Hands shares with Moore a dynamic way with integrated organic forms, as well as an ability to imbue simplified figures with a powerful emotional resonance. Like Moore , too, Hands´treatment of the human figure anthropomorphizes elements of landscape, with hollows that suggest caves, and voluptuous contours that evoke hills creating a sense of surreal metamorphosis. The two artists also share a fondness for negative spaces contained with volumic masses that Hands takes even further in terms of interwoven figural complexity. Equally remarkable is Hands´ability to achieve monumentality on a much more intimate scale than the earlier sculptor.

As another writer pointed out, the present popularity of musical performers such as Bjork and Sigur Ros has focused attention on the contribution of Iceland to contemporary popular culture. Aegis Hands shows every indication of making a comparable contribution to visual culture, given his highly original use of materials, as well as the universal qualities that, along with their abstract ones, make his sand sculptures vastly appealing. On the evidence of his recent exhibition at Agora Gallery, it seems safe to assume that wider recognition for this gifted sculpor is imminent.

– Marie R. Pagano