“Shifting Horizons” is a collection of artworks inspired by several trips to China that Hanna Kay made since 2012.
“The most significant experiences that influenced me were encounters with clay relics in several imperial burial pits (such as in Xi’an). I was moved by these ancient cultural practices, but I was also impressed by the techniques and use of materials by both traditional and contemporary artists. Consequently, this body of work, both two and three dimensional, employs traditional Chinese materials to create a cross-cultural dialogue.
Much of my work has explored our relationship with the landscape. Ibelieve that the landscape is an essential element in the formation of a distinct culture. Terracotta warriors, various animals and other useful relics emerge out of trenches filled with sand, ashes, and clay fragments. It was clear to me that the natural forces have been pivotal in influencing the current condition of the burial pits. The environmental context was also crucial in deciding the location of an emperors' burial site. Mountains and rivers would have provided an auspicious setting as well as materials (clay and wood), and ease of transport.
There are three aspects to the body of work I made as a response my encounter with the warriors. First, mixed media works on rice paper- paper scrolls that explore the environmentalelementsthat would have helped to shape the burial practices in ancient Xi’an and the confluence of forces that have since acted upon the burial sites.
Second, an army of clay angels - the clay warriors had been placed around the emperors tombs in order to protect from any calamities that might befall it, both on earth and in the afterlife. Thus, likeangels, they exist in between worlds. Angels have become a metaphor for spiritual and secular elements in our contemporary societies. They also act as messengers, bearers of communications. Some believe they are in control of the natural forces.
Third, repositories – objects that are shaped like an open book. In making the repositories I have drawn on the idea of the concave and the convex to create a place of a historical repository and contemplation. It is a structure that welcomes a dialogue between the two sides of the piece, engaging with different practices relating to burial and commemorations.
The body of work which constitutes Shifting Horizons is a nexus of the immeasurable age of the natural world, with the fragility and transience of human perception on which that experience is dependent.
Hanna Kay is a Ph.D. candidate at Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney University. Shifting Horizons is part of the creative component of her thesis.