Today we look at Drawn Inward by Heather Hansen for Artwork in Focus. Join me Divvya Nirula as I explore and present my experience of the selected artwork.
Artwork in Focus
Title: Drawn Inward
Artist : Heather Hansen
Year : 2015
Medium : Charcoal on paper, performance art
Location : Los Angeles, US
Drawn Inward – the movement and the message
Spread over a massive paper canvas, firmly gripping pieces of charcoal in each hand, Heather Hansen begins a demanding physical routine. Moving to music, this kinaesthetic artist, uses her choreographed gestures as tools for her art. The endless trails cause and create permanent records of her physical movements. Part performance art and part dance, these kinetic drawings Hansen brings together her love for dance and visual art into this artwork in focus. The symmetrical patterns that emerge, through performances, are reminiscent of a Rorschach test. Or perhaps even cycles occurring in nature. One can’t stop watching as artist, medium and movement create a message of celebration.
Hansen’s performative traces
Hansen’s works also possess a bodily sense that could be definitively female. The shapes resulting from Hansen’s movements are soft, round, gentle and flowing. They seem related to an inner space. Perhaps an innerworld that is finding it’s way forth when the artist moves and the body leaves its traces behind through the medium of choice. In this case it is charcoal on paper. Tastefully seductive, these performances define femininity and the artist’s awareness of it. But they do bring to mind something else. If one was to take away the performance and only see these large swirls and forms on these even larger sheets of paper what does one see? For me this question and the charcoal lines and curves remind me of the Rorschach Test.
What is the Rorschach Test?
A projective psychological test developed in 1921 by Hermann Rorschach. The Rorschach test was and continues to be used today to measure thought disorder for the purpose of identifying mental illness. It was inspired by the observation that schizophrenia patients often interpret the things they see in unusual ways. In the test, the participant is shown a series of ten ink blot cards and directed to respond to each with what they see in the inkblot.
As a dancer, Hansen expertly brings movement and focus to the body, along with control. Captured in charcoal or pastel, they loom larger than life. And as I view these traces of her performance I am instinctively decoding, deciphering and giving meaning to these forms – much like a Rorschach test.
The Human Experience in Heather Hansen’s Drawn Inward
Hansen consciously moves with the intent to create a fluid mark. But what do we see, what shape, form and intent do we ascribe to these marks? Our personal connection to her work long after the performance has ended, is what makes this body fo work so treasured for me. What she inspires within us as a reaction is what imbues her drawings with an endearing sense of humanity. The imperfections in the lines and shapes are celebrating the human hand and condition. The spontaneity, exuberance and force of movement and its inherent energy tell us to live life, to explore, to be curious. Her works here will always be deeply powerful and poetic.
Hansen has spent the past several years experimenting with ways to align movement with art making. She blurs the lines between performance, drawing and dance. She has always been interested in the physicality and performative aspects of making art.
If these works were exclusively studio made, behind closed doors, they would simply be called large-scale drawings. They would continue to be impressive, and as enticing in scale and lawfully engaging. Hansen however prefers to work in front of an audience, or a camera. Through this she is able to break the fourth wall and bring a candour to the work. Her artworks are thus as much about the act of creating, as the creation itself.
This public aspect seems uniquely truthful and it ultimately infuses the final drawings with an immediacy that is ineffable and compelling.
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