Welcome to the ‘upsidedownable’ world of our Artist of the Month, Hannah Battershell. Inspired by Indian miniature paintings, Japanese screens, Medieval illuminations, the work of Louise Bourgeois, Edward Gorey, William Blake, Tove Jansson, and, often, her own dreams, Hannah seeks to create a strong sense both of mystery and humour. Her pieces are sometimes miniature, always detailed; the aim is to draw the viewer in closer like a book.
Her material of choice is usually paper, with which she has had a lifelong obsession and she has amassed a collection of pieces hailing from all over the world. She is utterly fascinated by this material's potential and its association with the world of books, another passion of Hannah’s. After painting or drawing on the different kinds of paper - watercolour, pastel, washi - using a scalpel she will intricately hand cut tiny pieces and layer them up into diorama-like collages.
Her latest work is informed by growing spaces, species extinctions and our environmental crisis, the concept of parallel universes and the search for Planet B.
The abiding mood of Hannah’s work is one of dark playfulness and eerie beauty, with a strong sense of narrative. Sometimes she harnesses the naturally dreamy quality of the photographic cyanotype technique and recently created a series of print editions depicting ethereal scenes: gardens in the clouds, ruins and waterfalls. Printing these using the sun’s energy she deliberately lets the wind move the image during exposure so that blurring occurs, further adding to the atmosphere of the images.
Hannah describes her latest work as ‘upsidedownable’ because this refers to the ability for the image to be viewed either way up. Drawing inspiration from the Werner Nekes Collection of similarly reversible images, Hannah has created a series of works: reflected islands that show an abundant past or a barren future. Faces that change age/gender depending on which way up you view them from.
Her motivation and drive is beautiful echoed in a comment from a recent interview from the son of Dame Paula Rego. He remembers his artist parents leaving him with his grandparents, yet again. He says, "I asked my father what was so bloody important about art that it should take them away? I understood about doctors and firemen - but artists? My father said, as if he were explaining how the Earth goes round the Sun that an artist is like an explorer who goes to worlds where no one has ever been and brings back a picture. And although we've never seen it before, we all recognise it."
To spark this sense of recognition in my work is what drives me.