By James Dignan, Art Seen, Otago Daily Times, 16th June 2016.
While both Ngahuia Harrison and Becky Cameron look introspectively towards our surroundings, Hannah Beehre has turned her eyes skyward towards the natural art of deep space. Using a medium often seen as low art, paint on velvet, she has created gorgeous, subtle renditions of the wonders of nebulae.
Despite the materials used, there is no chintziness here - we are presented with wondrous pieces which draw us deeply into swirls of ionised gases and stellar nurseries.
Velvet is the perfect material to use for depictions of the utter darkness between the stars; Beehre’s handling of the acrylic and dye which she places over the material brings the universe to life in a way that is as instantly recognisable as the breathtaking sights seen through high-powered telescopes.
Beehre uses a further conceit in her work - one which could have easily returned the materials to the realms of the lowbrow, but which she handles deftly and with aplomb. The addition of tiny pieces of crystal to the finished surface creates a truly stellar backdrop. Moving around the works is to invite the twinkle of starlight into view. The result is work that is as audacious in its construction as it is impressive in it’s finished results.
Velvet vistas and the indifference of nature
By Nick Atkinson, NZ Herald, July 4th 2015.
This Canterbury artist and designer keeps a close eye on the images beamed in from the far reaches of our galaxy and beyond.
These aloof and watery pictures are captivating even before you consider their remoteness in space and time, as the action captured in Hannah Beehre's acrylic and dye on velvet paintings occurred in the faraway past of another epoch.
Her larger works depict relatively local nebulas glowing ominously in our very own spiral arm of the Milky Way, while some of her smaller pictures illustrate impossibly distant lone galaxies.
One drawback of Beehre's new collection is that it's impossible to photograph accurately.
This is partly attributable to the almost iridescent qualities of the velvet and the dancing sparkles reflecting from the Swarovski crystals Beehre installs to pick out individual stars.
"The nebulas are reminiscent of ancient Renaissance depictions of creation and hellfire - it's as if we've imagined these images long before we ever saw them," says Beehre, an Olivia Spencer Bower Trust Award recipient and former Scott Base artist in residence.
This latest interstellar collection sees Beehre continuing to conjure meaning and motive from the more volatile corners of nature.
Her past work picked out hidden facets and colours in some of the world's most famous jewels.
The chequered history of many of the gems added a sinister note to these intricate and otherwise decorative colour pencil drawings.
Following the Christchurch quakes her series of charcoal and dye volcanic eruptions on paper questioned nature's "spiritual intent".
"It felt like we were standing on top of a monster," she says of her experience living through the quakes.
Her latest show explores the concept of "the natural world being aware of us, a consciousness of nature".
Although it may sound far-fetched, that creeping feeling of insignificance is familiar to many of us who have run into the malicious indifference of the infinite.
"It's like there are other stories behind these images that are only hinted at," she says.
Beehre's latest show, at the Jonathan Smart Gallery in Christchurch, is hanging throughout this month.
It is her first solo exhibition at the gallery that has supported her work for a decade. "Jonathan Smart gives you so much freedom and scope. I can take a lot of risks."
Beehre finds far-off images for her new work from a range of sources.
There are the images from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter searching for water, among other things, during its constant laps of the red planet.
Then there are complex composite images covering different light ranges captured by some of the world's largest land-based radio telescope arrays, including the European Southern Observatory in Chile.
Beehre all but replicates these pictures, but the unpredictable flow of the dye betrays the artist's hand.
Astute astronomers will be able to identify some of the nebulas and galaxies before they look at the work's title which gives the name of the celestial subject.
Happy star gazing!