Hanna Kay: Featured Artist

Having grown up in one environment and then migrated to live in several others before ending up in rural Australia, my artworks are inspired by my encounters with the natural world. Much of my work has been exploring our relationship with the landscape and, through it, I have come to recognize nature’s significance to our humanity, and to believe that the landscape is an essential element in the formation of a culture’s distinctiveness.

“Random moments” is a collection of images plucked from my preoccupation with the environment, which I embarked upon on my return from China in 2012. In these works-on-paper I wish to highlight the confluence of forces that act upon a place, helping to shape its uniqueness.  Movement between liquidity and solidity, between absence and substance, between deserts and forests, caves, rocks and remnants of rocks, between dust, mist and smoke, all of which emerges through order and disorder within it.

The technique I have been using is a modified version of the old masters. The meticulously layering of oil paint and white tempera assists to define the shape of the forms, as well as reflects light as in nature. This technique serves to create works which act as metaphors, alluding, through the subjects of grass, twigs, sand, stones, water, dust or mist, to day to day experiences. The works are a nexus between the immeasurable age of the natural world, and the fragility and transience of human perception on which that experience is dependent. The slow process of making my art allows new ideas to emerge. This interaction with material and the actual “doing”, leads to an enhanced understanding of the conceptual framework that propels the work.

In addition to Random Moments, the 2012 visit to China has inspired a PhD project that I began in 2014 at the Sydney College of the Arts. My thesis looks at the relationships that are brought together when an artwork is experienced. I draw on various disciplines: aesthetics, semiotics, philosophy, sociology, history, anthropology and cultural studies to talk about the space that is formed when viewing artworks. The work I am making for the PhD focuses on Chinese ancient burial practices and beliefs, and relates them to Judeo-Christian ones.

In 2014 I went back to Xian to further research burial practices and the making of the terracotta warriors and travelled west to parts of the Silk Road in order to understand the environmental setting of the mausoleums in the ancient capital (Xian).  The natural setting had been pivotal in choosing locations for the emperors’ burial sites.  Mountains and rivers that surround the city would have provided an auspicious setting as well as materials (clay and wood) and transport. The desert dust that would engulf the city was a reminder of their temporality.

 In the process of making “Random Moments” I felt an urge to engage with the material of the relics I saw, as well as the forces that would have acted upon them. I am now making ‘repository’ boxes which are contemplative dialogues between cultures and practices. In response to the warriors, I am creating an army of terracotta angels: the Chinese warriors function as guardians of souls, placed between this world and the afterlife.  Not unlike angels which are God’s warriors and guardians of the soul.