Nowhere Bodily Is Everywhere Ghostly
“Oh man! There is no planet, sun, or star could hold you if you but knew what you are.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The work of Jason de Haan exists at the collision of precarity and unpredictability, approached with a sense of time wrapped in memory, mythology, fantasy and romance. His works seem as though they were rediscovered in some dusty attic or arcane museum collection - quiet gestures forgotten long ago – yet from a past that dreamed of a distant future still unrealized.
Time is made manifest in de Haan’s hands. His Salt Beards (2009-2012) – sculptures made up of mineral accretions formed upon the chins of classical busts – appear as curious, anachronistic icons roused from a deep slumber, dreamers from another time. In the thick, crusty salt one recalls the unexpected beard of Rip Van Winkle, for whom twenty years was compressed into a single night. His story is one that conflates the natural with the supernatural, truth with fiction, and that, lost within his untethered imagination, Van Winkle escaped his mundane existence. De Haan’s Salt Beards follow a similar path, the growth of the crystals on cultural artifacts straddling natural processes and manmade interventions with more than a touch of alchemy.
Two of de Haan’s larger works New Jerusalem (2010) and New Jerusalem, Cloud Shrouded (2012) push the viewer to envisage time on a broader, geological scale. Titled after the prophesied, post-apocalyptic City of God, the two works are enormous orbs collaged from the covers of more than 1000 science fiction paperbacks spanning the 1950s to the 1980s. New Jerusalem is a dizzying cityscape of glass domes and crystal towers populated with monuments of omniscient eyeballs and spacecraft at the ready. It’s counterpart, New Jerusalem, Cloud Shrouded, is a veritable colour wheel of cloudscapes, void of any signs of life. Together the effect is one of ambiguity – are the clouds suggestive of a primordial age before humanity or the catastrophic collapse of our civilization? Which is our future and which is our past?
Thankfully, Jason de Haan is a dreamer. He harnesses a keen talent for developing his ideas around the seeds of potentiality and uncertainty sown in models of space and time that he adapts, expands or utterly collapses. The resulting gestures are quietly understated yet remarkably potent, poignant and poetic. His cyanotype Moon (2010) was made from a single coin resting on treated paper exposed under the light of a lunar eclipse. The modest white circle is hauntingly evocative and an extraordinary demonstration of sleight of hand as the moon disappears behind the shadow of the earth only to reappear as de Haan’s captive. Such is the artist’s magic; the power to traverse galaxies within the blink of an eye - a blink that may well have lasted an eternity.
Jason de Haan is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Calgary. His work has been shown in exhibitions across Canada and internationally in the USA, Ireland, Mexico, Sweden, Iceland and the UK. He completed a BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design (Calgary, AB) and recently began an MFA at Bard College (Annandale on Hudson, NY). He is currently shortlisted for the 2012 Sobey Art Award representing the Prairies and the North. Jason de Haan is represented by Clint Roenisch Gallery in Toronto.