The man who loves monsters.
René M. Hamel has been named "The
Monster Man from Oslo".
He is born and grown up in Kaiserslauten, Germany, where nocturnal
watching of horror movies on television probably left its traces
in the delicate mind of the child. It has to be some reason or other
- because during the last years this immigrant has attracted considerable
attention within art and media circles in Norway. Not only has he
been the object of a great deal of praise in nationwide media like
Dagbladet and Aftenposten, he has also managed to establish a dialogue
with everybody and everything from ecstasy-munching house-youths
to heavy, multinational fashion-industry.
This is to a great deal caused by René M. Hamel hitting a
"zeitgeist" - a spirit of the time. His sculptures and
other works are tailor-made for the beginning of a century and a
millennium. There is a sense of aggression and alienation in many
of his works, but also a deep fascination for what the future may
bring. René M. Hamel operates within that border zone which
the Swiss artist H. R. Giger once defined as "bio-mechanical
landscapes" - i.e. that point where the human being and the
machine comes out in a new unit. It is easy to lean on contemporary
terms like "horror", "comic stories" and "science
fiction" when one is to describe what Hamel does, but it doesn't
imply that he is without predecessors from past times. Many of his
sculptures expresses more of the same nightmarish world which Hieronymus
Bosch once painted, but in Hamel's version we find the basic subject
in our fear for what Man is about to transform himself into - not
in any chastising Deity. Hamel's Frankenstein-monsters definitely
belong to this world, and affect us therefore as a horrifying warning
of a development which is but a few steps away.
The twentieth century has above all been the century of fragmentation.
Just like the atom was split, the collective views of Mankind were
split as well. In a world which more and more adapts the form of
a splintered hall of mirrors, maybe the works of Spacebrain Future
Trash are closer to us than we would like to believe? And - it is
in accordance with these mirroring qualities that Hamel chooses
to take his art out from the safe galleries and the sterile museum
areas, and instead lets his cyber-monsters loose among festively
spirited consumers and house-party participants.
And this is exactly why one should rather not overlook the humoristic
aspect of Hamel's works. It is indeed a humour which can be bitter
as well as black, but it is easily recognised by everyone who has
been brought up with EC Comics, "Aliens" and "Terminator".
Swap the word "fruit" with the word "fear" -
and see if not Hamel's collage-like robotheads all of a sudden remind
us of the made up faces of the painter from the 14th century - Giuseppe
Since we are into historic parallels - the German born painter Kurt
Schwitters created his works out of littered tram tickets and outdated
timetables. His so-called Merzbau was an attempt to build an alternative
- but all the same commentary - world to our own, where just the
rejected and discarded were the building stones he used. That reminds
us a whole lot of Hamel's container-aesthetics.
Kurt Scwitters lived in Norway from 1935, and had to flee the country
five years later. His only constructed Merzbau was some time later
destroyed by children who played with matches.
René M. Hamel's cyber-sculptures won't be as easy to put
-- Arvid Scancke-Knutsen