Reviews/Visual Art

Street smart

14 March 2018

Review: Handbrake’s “Chaos Controlled” ·
35 Cheriton St, East Perth, Friday 9 March ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

Near the disused East Perth power station, nestled amongst a cluster of industrial buildings, is the warehouse space in which Handbrake’s “Chaos Controlled” was held, the iridescent colours of his art works popping against the foreground of the street’s grey and rust.

“Chaos Controlled” was the perfect name for this short-lived show by street artist Handbrake (real name Hans Bruechle). Within a carefully curated space, it was both a showcase of the subversive and a celebration of the alternative. From the vividly painted vodka bottle skulls to the eye-catching sequence of skateboard decks, there was no shortage of visual stimuli. Video footage of Handbrake at work – projected on a screen hung from the warehouse ceiling – revealed a detailed process of design, planning and execution.

Handbrake’s trademark combination of quirky and vibrant came through in his use of colour, emphasised by the bright palettes used to bring the jumbled compositions to life. Several illustrated pieces that were exhibited feature drawn outlines in heavy black, almost like a colouring-in page, which are then paired with neon colour. This is not paint-by-numbers, but colour applied in freeform flow. There is something evocative about the space left uncoloured, as if reminding us that not everything needs to be treated and covered for full effect. The surfboards that were on display are drawn and painted on in a similar fashion, transforming a blank and practical object into art you’d want to take home and  show off to others. Turn around and there was even a motorcycle featuring detailed illustration on its panels – you can literally ride this graphic art!

A playful highlight was the triptych of Australian Playboy covers, real covers reimagined and given the “Handbrake” branding treatment in a street update on traditional pop art. Instead of the Ben-Day dots of a Lichtenstein, here we find hand-drawn tattoo motifs in black. Also tongue-in-cheek and wonderfully constructed were the sculpture pieces, spot on in their wit and observational humour, with a “Facebook like” button placed as bait on a metal spring trap (the dangers of social media) and a rotary dial phone with a built in lightbulb (“illuminating conversation”).

Had these pieces been displayed on spotless plinths in a silent, air-conditioned white gallery, would they have had the same effect? The art does speak for itself. But part of the joy of “Chaos Controlled” was its positioning as a proudly street-smart exhibition. With many in the high heels and expensive suits of a conventional opening, punters were more than comfortable weaving around a motorcycle and getting up and personal with a skateboard deck.

Accessible and just plain fun, Handbrake’s exhibition made for a great night out and I look forward to seeing more of his works.

Handbrake is pictured top, with his work.

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Author —
Belinda Hermawan

Belinda Hermawan is a graduate of UWA Law School (2009) and a fiction writer whose short fiction has been published in Australia and the United States. She is a summer school alum of Parsons, The New School of Design in New York. Favourite piece of playground equipment: playground car on springs!

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