A severed dead hand baffled Hackney’s artistic community on Thursday night.
The appendage in question was used by Norwegian artist Morten Viskum to paint a canvas with pig’s blood, at a controversial showcase at east London’s Vegas Gallery. The show opens a month long exhibition of the artist’s latest work, under the title “The Hand With The Golden Ring.”
The artist began his performance by giving a handshake to the members of the audience. “I do that because I can see it makes them uncomfortable,” he revealed. After throwing pig’s blood on the canvas that lay on the ground, he took the unidentified hand and started spreading the red liquid.
“I quite liked seeing the process of painting itself,” said Mark Barker, a 27-year-old artist in attendance on the night. “Nevertheless, I think it was a bit heavy-handed. I don’t know what it does beyond the shock value. I don’t see why he needs to use a dead hand to create this work. There seems to be a gap.”
Nick Curtis, 43, who is also an artist, admitted “I probably wouldn’t think so much of it if I didn’t know it was a dead hand. The hand made it something more special. On the whole, I thought the performance was very intriguing.”
Before embarking on fine arts, Viskum was a student of veterinary science in Oslo – an experience that got him “used to dead animals and blood,” according to the artist himself.
When asked after the showcase about his choice of materials, he said he used animals’ parts because it was impossible to use dead humans.
But it didn’t take long for him to start seeking human parts instead.
“I got my first hand in 2007. Since then I started using six different hands for my painting.”
The artist admitted to having had some qualms about his unconventional set of tools.
“It was very strange in the beginning. I had them in my studio for six months wondering whether or not it was correct to use them”.
Today, he sees his work as a conversation about life and death. “I want to awake people and make them think about their daily lives and respect life itself.”
The artist is currently preparing an exhibition in New York relating to Michael Jackson but refused to disclose more about it or the ex-owners of the dead hands.
“I can’t say more about that exhibition but I can assure you it won’t involve parts of him. It’s about him, not his body”.
“The Hand with the golden ring” runs in Vegas Gallery until December 19.
The Vegas Gallery is a contemporary art gallery situated in the heart of East London. Visit their website for more info.
Morten Viskum lives and works in Norway. For more on his life and work, visit his website.
For our pick of the best gigs, club nights, exhibitions and events you need to know about this week along the East London Line, check out our “Pick of the Line” here