Robert Hanley artist

 

 

Born 1978, Dublin.

 

1989, a 10-year-old child contemplating 40,000-year-old negative-hand-stencil images in El Castillo cave in northern Spain finds resonance with the impulse he reads behind the ritual act (performed here dozens of times) of pressing a hand against the rock surface and blowing red paint over it so that the hand ‘disappears’ into the earth’s surface: there is a sense of the transcendent – as something that we can feel ourselves ‘fall’ infinitely in toward – having a direction downwards into the darkness of the earth. (Hence, the same impulse that led prehistoric humans to journey deep into the earth’s womb independently led artists of the modern Romantic period to find themselves drawn to the notion of the infinite abyss, as exemplified in Casper David Friedrich’s Monk by the Sea, c.1809.)

Immediately upon return to Dublin, paints Monk in Study – investigating light:darkness binary as a metaphor for material:transcendent – for submission to a national art competition on the topic of the Book of Kells (9th-century illuminated manuscript). Takes first prize in his category (primary schools), the President of Ireland presenting the 11-year-old with a handcrafted facsimile of the Book of Kells valued (in 1990) at 20,000 US dollars.

 

Monk In study

Monk In study, 1989

 

1997-2002, reads electronic engineering at University College Dublin and radio-frequency design engineering at University of Bradford, graduating top of his class with a master’s degree with distinction.

 

2002, moves to Rome for a year to contemplate art. Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro to influence his work in Dublin studio for the next several years as he continues to investigate his early interest in the relationship between the binaries of light:darkness and material:transcendent.

 

2004-2005, reads education at University College Dublin. Psychology lectures lead him to a neuroscientific appreciation of our thoughts and feelings as physical entities (chemical transmissions) within a continuously changing web of connections between some hundred billion brain cells – our ‘mental’ landscape, in fact, an entirely material landscape comprised, at the fundamental level, of nothing but atoms (primarily oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen).

To reconcile this theoretical appreciation of our material constitution with an experiential sense of consciousness – the transcendental sense our material brain enjoys of it being ‘like something’ for us to perceive the world around us – would take many more years’ contemplation.

 

A Sensual Flow through the Earth, 2007

A Sensual Flow through the Earth, 2007

 

2008–2011, a period of abstract expressionist work of colour-field tendency aims at a more direct approach to the transcendent by shifting primary focus from propositional content provoking thought to phenomenal content provoking phenomenal sensation, such as the qualitative experience of colour – it being the phenomenal alone that can deliver a subjective sense of the transcendent. A qualitative experience such as ‘redness’ is an internally created representation of an external, non-qualitative objective reality – thus, from the subjective viewpoint, transcending that objective reality.

An art emphasis on the phenomenal, of course, brings with it an increased appreciation of an artwork’s essential materiality, which is what affords sensory stimulus in the first place – whether reflecting light-particle waves of specific wavelengths to provoke a particular visual sensation, delivering vibrations through the air to provoke aural sensation, or releasing molecules into the air for our olfactory stimulation.

Yet, romanticist pursuit of the transcendent seems jeopardised as inexorable reduction toward art’s essential materiality leads to ineluctable acknowledgement of the artwork’s objecthood – the objective reality of the artwork as a mundanely material object of the same nature as any other object in its environment. The question is raised as to whether minimalism becomes the philosophically most defensible position – the rationalistic modern brain demanding acquiescence to objective reality, in spite of a continuing capacity for experience of the transcendent.

 

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 2009–2011

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 2009–2011

 

DETAIL, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

DETAIL, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

 

2012, establishes permanent studio in Madrid to commence work on a postminimalist alternative to minimalism: remainder of web page under construction… page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction page under construction.