Article originally published for Lo & Behold
We sat down to chat with Hannah Jensen, a multi-disciplinary artist who is inspired by the ocean and unique New Zealand landscape. Best known for her amazingly intricate carved work, achieved by applying layers of paint to board before employing traditional printmaking techniques like intaglio, etching and carving.
But before we got into the work, we wanted to find out more about Hannah, and what makes her tick. Originally born in England, Hannah shifted to New Zealand at the age of two with her mother and older brother. She lives in her studio in Freemans Bay, Auckland. The studio is nestled between two high rise apartments and has thick vegetation growing up the walls. Its an oasis from the crazy city life all around. Natural light spills down into the space through the high pitched ceilings and exposed rafters. It’s the perfect little place to foster creativity.
But even though it may appear that Hannah lives the life (which she does), it hasn’t all been plain sailing. She has overcome health problems and hardships, like being raised by a single mother and the passing of her father and nephew. Instead of dwelling too much on the past though, she has used gratitude to power her forward. Those tough times have carved her into the person she is today.
Hannah doesn’t take things at face value and questions the norms. I guess this is why she is an artist. When making us a plunger coffee she lifted the lid up a tad and poured the coffee into our cups. At the time I was instantly taken aback, but she explained how she likes the crema and with the lid on you never get it. It makes total sense and I can’t believe I have never thought of that. Like with the plunger, her art is a result of experimentation – she paints layers of colours onto a board, coat by coat. Some pieces consist of 70 layers and once dried she carves back the layers revealing the different colours beneath. For particular pieces she would have a pre-existing idea and calculates the amount of paint and colour to complete it. She explains her work as topographic and textural representation. The way the layers, colour and light interact, creating forms and patterns on the board is an experience in itself. They invite you take a closer look.
At Hannah’s show ‘View Point’ last October she exhibited carvings, prints and drawings of a collection based on New Zealand’s mountains and coastlines. This really conveyed her connection to the land and sea. One piece that stood out, not only because of its 1.8m length but also because of the intricacies of the tonal work was ‘World – Ocean Currents’. “I loved creating this carving of the world! I remember when I was little, flicking through the Atlas at home and listening to mums tails of her and Dad’s travels through Africa and India. All the countries differentiated by multiple pastel colours and the ocean a baby blue. However growing up with boat trips out from Waitangi to the surrounding islands for family picnics, I quickly learnt the ocean isn’t baby blue. It is turquoise and teal, cobalt and indigo; vast, deep and its movement … mesmerising”
The world map created from 40 coats of acrylic paint consisting of 6 different blues and a white finish on top. The direction of the ocean currents are carved out leaving the countries raised above the swirling ocean below. Her art is heavily influenced from the ocean and her travels. Other pieces consist of native vegetation of New Zealand, landscapes, animals and cultures of the world.
It’s easy to fall into a bad routine, consuming your time with that one thing that pays the bills. For Hannah that thing is her passion of carving, but even then, she schedules in daily walks with mates, yoga, bombs off the wharf at high tide and socialising in the evenings. At the weekends, she escapes up north to Lang’s Beach, to be humbled by the vastness of the ocean, sometimes just on her own or with her step dad. I don’t think I could say I have ever meet a soulful SUP’er till I went for a paddle with Hannah. In the ocean she is playful, jumping off the board into the cool water below, doing yoga poses and headstands in the blue vastness. I could really feel her connection to the ocean.
When talking about what the ocean means to her and her art, she says;
“The ocean is where I am most connected to the world. When I am on land the ocean separates me from the rest of the world. When I am on, in or under the water, I feel connected to the whole world. For the ocean spans the whole world over, connecting all the continents and islands, cultures and diverseness. The Ocean is where I feel most free, at peace and supported to be able to keep going with what I do. It gives me reassurance I am on the right path, as cheesy as that sounds, and it gives me strength. For the ocean, with all its power continues to be just as it is and so how can I not be just as I am?”