Hannah Stippl Austria
How to speak about the Earth – Painting in time of crisis
What’s art for you?
Art is the most important form of communication. Especially all forms of visual art, not just “high art”, but every form of visible creation, whether it is painting, sculpture, architecture or one of the so-called folk or applied arts. What would we know about the world without art? The layer of information transmitted in written form is very thin and fragile. Art is understood on a much broader basis, and leads to the centre of what makes human. In its diversity, art has the power to connect people beyond time, to send messages into a distant future and to receive them from a distant past.
The Jerusalem Museum houses a tiny figurine from Berekhat Ram, almost indistinguishable from a normal pebble. This figurine is said to be 233,000-year-old. Its creators belonged to a now extinct human species that preceded modern humans. Looking at this small figure I was overwhelmed by the idea that some kind of human being, 233.000 years from now, might look at my art.
Can you give a definition of your art?
Painting and plants are at the center of my artistic work. Every painting is a garden, every garden is a painting. In recent years, I have focused on exploring natural structures such as thickets, embankments or overgrown slopes. Each project consists of a series of works on paper and canvas with a specific inspiration. My paintings build up layer upon layer, and since I’m working on many pieces at the same time, that can take years. New paintings are often started unintentionally: some colored areas, patterns, overlays. Compositions are built up by overlapping layers of paint with the help of stencils and historic pattern rollers that I collect for the last twenty years. Over time, the layers entangle and certain atmospheres become perceptible. It is important to me to keep the random, accidental, and inappropriate visible, like spots and grafifiti-like fragments, left-overs and stray lines. Together, these structures evoke ambiguous natural sceneries I am interested in, familiar and alien at the same time. I think of my paintings as growing and evolving with time, revealing themselves slowly. By creating visually dense situations in which one can let oneself fall, even if only visually, I try to expand the zone of chaotic, messy, and infinite beauty.
What’s inspiring your art works and why?
Throughout my career, I blended my love of pattern with a deep interest in landscape and plants. This is what informs my work in the studio, in the garden, and as horticultural installations. I am radical in the most original sense of the word “radicalis”, which means rooted, connected to the earth, with plants at eye level. Here, the radical is a form of earthly attachment.
In my works, I connect research in fields as mythology, feminism or ecology with individuality, emotion and beauty. Words and patterns in my paintings rely on repetition like magic spells. But patterns are not just boring and decorative repetitions, they are rhythms based on the distance between things, so they allow us to see between the things and visualise the space, the void. Patterns combine mathematics and handicrafts, a love of squiggles and dots, stripes and extravagant flowers.
I bought the first patternrollers at a flea market while I was still studying at the Angewandte, without any idea about how to use them, especially not artistically. After many failed efforts, one day I noticed the traces of colour on the table, overlapping layers that canceled and complemented each other; deep, opaque spaces of colour: that was it. I saw the painting. Then, I collected more and more pattern rollers, I have never counted them. Each new roller offers a whole universe of possibilities that have to be explored. I am still fascinated by the unclean repetitions, the faulty repeat, and the richness of crush marks.