It took artist Hannah Jensen five years and 140 litres of paint to create the stunning large scale works for her recent exhibition WILD.
Interview by Carolyn Enting
Hannah Jensen is one of four talented artists to feature on the cover of Good magazine’s 10th birthday issue for which she has created a bespoke ‘Rhino’ print with an important environmental message.
If you had to describe your style of work to a stranger without showing them your work, how would you describe it?
I carve representational images into layers of acrylic paint. I layer up to 70 coats (over a few weeks) on plyboards, small and large, and carve back into the paint, using a lino cutter, to reveal the different colours. It’s textural, topographical and a unique process I created at uni in 2003.
What inspires you most in your work/purpose?
I have an internal drive to create and while I still have that I will continue to use it with a passion. I enjoy the journey each work takes me on, as my technique is definitely a long process, I’m grateful I really enjoy it as well as the end result. But everyone needs a break, so it’s my time in nature that inspires me most. Filling my soul with amazing memories, being grounded on this earth and holding those incredible scenes and experiences in my heart while I spend long hours in an often cold studio.
For Good magazine’s 10th birthday issue you created an illustration to the brief ‘life is good’. Can you explain more about this particular illustration and how that informed this work?
Life is good when we care for everyone. I wanted to illustrate something beyond the good in life, I wanted to bring attention to what we do that isn’t so good and spark a conversation for potential ways to change that. For me, that has a lot to do with how we treat each other and animals, domestic and wild, on this incredible Earth. Rhino are killed in huge numbers for their horn and traded on the black market to Asia; my image of a rhino with floral patterns, symbolising blue and white china patterns; I hope somehow encourages the viewer to think more about what they buy and the source from which products come from.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
As soon as I could say the word. I knew making things was fun and now I get to create and make things every day.
What was your first memorable artistic memory?
I remember being at kindergarten and hand-painting and I danced and performed a lot when I was young! I loved it. Then it wasn’t until high school when I chose to do art as a subject when I really started to enjoy all sorts of mediums and experimenting with them all. It also helped that my mum was an amazing potter and growing up, I loved watching her make slab bottles with intricate flora on them.
Can you share one of your career highlights to date?
I recently had a solo exhibition, WILD at Allpress Studio, and loved showing my 8 large-scale passion pieces that I carved into 140 litres of paint. It took five years to create from the time the idea seeded, to its fruition. Hearing the incredible feedback from everyone who came was just so mind blowing for me. It is such an honour to do what I love and to share that and have it so loved in return it unbelievable (as cheesy as that sounds, it’s very true). I’m also lucky to have done over 300 commissioned carvings which feels like quite an achievement over the last decade.
What types of commissions do you enjoy the most?
Often I will have an idea of something I really want to create in my head and I will meet a client and they will literally ask me to create exactly that! I know that sounds crazy, but it happens!
What is your happy place?
Nature … hiking in the mountains with my lover, paddle boarding with dolphins, catching party waves with my step-dad while out surfing. The beach, lakes, forests and outdoors is endless in New Zealand and I am constantly blown away by how much I still haven’t seen. It also helps that my partner and I have been doing long-distance between Auckland and Christchurch for 17 months now, so we have really made the most of meeting up in some amazing places during that time.
What medium do you mostly/prefer to work with, and why?
I suppose it’s hard to go past the carving technique I created 15 years ago. Even though it a laborious process, the result is so worth it and I love that I am still challenged by it. At this stage I really haven’t seen anyone else do what I do, so that motivates me to keep on improving and pushing the technique to the next level. I still absolutely love carving.
What do you hope people get from your work?
JOY! I am here to share some joy. I hope my work sparks something in others, to feel emotion. I did have quite a few people cry at my last exhibition, so I’ll take that as a compliment that my work has the ability to move people, so maybe it isn’t always joy, but something that stirs inside to have moved the viewer in some way.
For more visit hannahjensen.co.nz