Consumers Delight by Dr. Hanneke Heinemann

DeDe Handon – Consumer’s Delight

The fore- and middle-ground of the picture are dominated by a grid of metal rods behind which empty or full shelves are discernible, although sometimes scarcely visible. The objects in DeDe Handon’s work series “Consumer’s Delight” can really only be identified by tentatively exploring the pictorial motif. Initially some of the sheets may look like architecture given their linear perspective and deliberately balanced arrangement. However when a familiar brand-name emerges between the bars of the grid, the situation is quickly clarified: the viewer is looking at the shelves of a supermarket through empty shopping trolleys. At first, the technique used raises questions, as the works seem both painterly and photographic. Distortions and blurred areas point to photographic material, which DeDe Handon handles in an unusual way. She allows for colour shifts and print imperfections and instead of glossy paper prefers transparent paper, which is not specifically intended for this process. Consequently, she spontaneously accepts, as components of the works, any tears or fold marks that may arise. With a fine sense for rhythm and textures she collages several sheets and fragments of this relatively fragile paint carrier on more solid boards. Sometimes she tears off layers again so that bits of the paint remain behind, giving an often schematic hint of the missing sheet. The materiality of both paint and paper is always tangible. Although this approach may initially recall attitudes and techniques of avant-gardist movements such as Pop Art, what is actually behind it is an acute sensing of the picture based on varied explorations of the motif.

Supermarkets and temples of consumerism are popular motifs in modern photography, a prominent example being the so-called 99-cent photographs by Andreas Gursky, who, like DeDe Handon, regards himself more as a painter than a photographer. What distinguishes them from one another, however, is the approach: Gursky uses image processing to achieve seemingly perfect pictures in which irritations are avoided by the montage process, while for DeDe Handon the calculated imperfections of the production process are part of the work’s deeper message. Apparently faded parts and tears are subtle pointers to the finite nature of human action and cast doubt on the consumer’s delight that is being addressed: the statement made in the title is thus turned into its opposite. What is more, the consumer’s delight is rendered impossible by the grids hindering both our gaze and access to the commodities. This unusual depiction of an everyday shopping situation thus becomes a harsh critique of consumerism and civilization.

It is quite appropriate, therefore, that works from this series, together with a large wall collage, were first shown in a drugstore that had been vacated due to insolvency. Yet even outside such a context, these works fascinate us by their human aspiration and their unassuming aesthetic, which is comprehensible not just to people in Europe.