Amelia's Magazine | Redefining luxury in wax: an interview with artist Andrea Hassler

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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Redefining luxury in wax: an interview with artist Andrea Hasler

London based Swiss artist Andrea Hassler discusses the inspiration behind Burdens of Excess, her recent LA show.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Andrea Hasler LV bag
Andrea Hasler is a London based artist dealing with the over consumption of modern times. Her recent exhibition at the Gusford Gallery in Los Angeles featured a riot of luxury goods, created in oozing wax that appears to mimic bodily organs. Here she explains the inspiration behind her work, and describes an interesting prophecy for the pinnacle of future luxurious desires.

Andrea Hasler JC shoes
How do you make your wax sculptures and is it a time consuming process?
After years of searching for the ultimate malleable material, I felt relieved to have finally found ‘my’ material the first time I worked with wax half way through Art College. For me, all the other sculpting materials feel limiting in terms of process and wax allows for flexibility: there is never an end-point, a piece can ‘rest’ for months before I warm it up to work on it again. Years later and I still greatly enjoy the ritual element of melting wax now deeply embedded in my sculptural practice. I enjoy the slow process, literally building up layer after layer. Saying that, there are also limitations as wax is not suitable for outdoor sculptures. I am currently working on a commission to cast one of my large wax pieces in bronze.

Andrea Hasler Irreducible Dual
Where do you find inspiration for the shapes and detailing on your wax accessories?
I spend a lot of time in medical libraries, as I have always been very fascinated by anatomical wax models used to illustrate various medical conditions. In the 1800s moulages (waxes showing injuries or pathological change in the body) often formed part of travelling shows across Europe; part entertainment, part public health education!

Which organs feature most in your bag and accessory designs?
The bags and accessories are not modelled with a single organ in mind… more a combination of ‘organ-intestine-brain-liposuction-waste’ all in one!

Andrea Hasler BE MC clutch
What led to your show in LA, and how does exhibiting there contrast with showing in London?
When GUSFORD | los angeles invited me to exhibit a Solo Show in West Hollywood, I felt it very fitting to show Burdens of Excess, which is an installation that resulted out of my long term project Desire. It’s a subject that resonates with so much that Hollywood stands for so I was intrigued by the viewers’ reactions in a paradoxical way. By bringing the deconstructed intestine bags back to their boutique environment and closing the circle, I feel the notion of this show has been brought back to its ‘natural habitat’ of Hollywood.


How did you set about creating a virtual shop in the Gusford gallery -  and what were the challenges with working abroad to install the exhibition?
In Burdens of Excess I play with the aesthetic codes of a chic, seductive luxury boutique, with its black walls, glittery flooring and the way the organ objects are presented on plinths, hermetically sealed behind glass boxes. The subject matters of both the desire for luxury items as well as the darker side of plastic surgery’s intestine-liposuction filled accessories are both synonymous with what Hollywood glamour represents for me in order to be accepted, to be part of the ‘tribe’.

Andrea Hasler Irreducible Com-Solo
How has your Swiss heritage affected your view of the world?
Growing up in Switzerland, famous for its understated take on ‘anything’, I was not prepared for the brashness and logo obsession in relation to luxury goods that I encountered when moving to London. Long limited edition waiting lists and queuing around the block for a pair of shoes where all new to me. So initially, Desire started by analysing my own growing obsession with luxury items and developed from there. Through this, I became fascinated with the psychological aspect of consumerism and its emotional link to ‘Abject’. I am intrigued by the borderline between attraction and repulsion, something that is aesthetically desirable yet revolting at the same time and where the viewer’s attraction is replaced by repulsion, power, control and impotence. In my work, I have always been particularly drawn to the body, how to depict the emotional body and working with skin as the physical element that divides the Self from the other, as well as the potential container for both and what happens if you open up those boundaries. All of this forms part of Burdens of Excess, where I play with visions of the future, scenes of surgical fetishes and glamour, unsettling the viewer with images of carefully staged and naturalistic wax reproductions of human organs in a form of luxury fetish.

Andrea Hasler McQ organ
What was the best thing about studying at Chelsea College of Art?
Prior to my BA/MA at Chelsea, I completed the international Baccalaureate at the bilingual Swiss-Italian Liceo Artistico in Zurich, Switzerland and after 5 years of copying Italian Renaissance masters, arriving at Chelsea College of Art was a breath of fresh air and symbolized sheer freedom!

Andrea Hasler, Burdens of Excess, 2013, installation image 1
You have some pretty extreme views of what luxury will mean in the future – can you tell us a bit more?
Luxury is an excess that holds a great fascination for me. My work poses new questions in relation to the craze for luxury and status: How much can our body take? – Will we sacrifice everything for beauty? – What kind of person do we wish to be tomorrow? – How much money will we spend on it? I honestly think that one day, it will not be the Rolex on your wrist that will be the ultimate luxury accessory but kidneys embellished with diamonds. As soon as the exterior has been completely moulded, plastic surgery of an internal organ is its logical consequence. This is the peak of the exclusive: The intervention is not visible – or only so on x-rays! I think we live in a nomadic society and the brands we choose are a reflection of the ‘tribe’ we want to belong to. More importantly they help us be identified by other nomads, to become part of the group. This notion is driven by a sense of desperately wanting to belong that the philosopher Julia Kristeva links with our desire to recreate the symbiotic mother-infant relationship and which stems from the consequent tragedy of the sense of loss when one realizes that they are an independent subject. So really, to put it simple: I think the craze for luxury is a longing for one’s nurturing mother!

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