A show of hands
‘Art is made with the hands… they are the instrument of creation, but before that, the organ of knowledge’ – Henri Focillon, In Praise of Hands, 1948
Arguably the oldest form of art in human history, the pictorial representation of hands has long been a preoccupation of artists. Themselves a central tool of making, the depiction of hands may also suggest a capacity to comprehend and create, gesture and communicate, as well as to hold, caress and heal. In 2020, a year in which we simultaneously feared and craved human touch, a preoccupation with hands was acutely felt. Once so inquisitive, our hands became so cautious.
‘A show of hands’ of course has a double-meaning: literally, a bringing together of works united by an interest in the portrayal of the human hand, and metaphorically, as an expression of consensus, support or solidarity. In this difficult year, especially felt by graduating artists, for whom the ritual and reward of the end of year grad show was plagued by uncertainty, this selection of works is a small attempt at raising my own hand in support.
Across painting, video, photography and sculpture, the ten works assembled for this tour variously depict the human hand as a form of portraiture, performance, gesture, creation, learning, action and remembrance.
Annika Kristensen is Senior Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne← Tours