Drawing as Becoming: Process, Flux and Essence in the Recent Works of Kristina Hanson
“I think of my works as collaborations with forces that are outside of my control. At the time I was making these works I was concerned with the contrast between stillness and movement and to find something that remained the same in a thing even as it changes constantly; to try to discover it’s essence.” - Kristina Hanson
Drawing as Becoming showcases a series of drawings that were inspired by the migration of birds and the movement of the sea. The sea drawings were made on a beach in Dundee, Scotland, where Hanson allocated herself a specific time period within which a drawing had to be created. Each line describes the shape and energy of the sea, perceived at a certain moment within the given time-frame.
The result is a transcription of the fleeting patterns of motion, allowing viewers to experience an otherwise invisible residue, through a conflation of time. Hanson has produced meshes of movement by layering the stages of metamorphosis occurring in natural phenomena.
Hanson’s drawings are implicitly self-referential in that the kind of motion they depict is inherent to the processes used in their creation. The trajectories of the lines within these drawings mirror the movement of the sea, but they are also a record of the movements of the artist’s hand through space. In this way they contain a double effect in terms of their ability to record motion; they are not simply depictions of something seen, but they embody the process that is their subject.
On many levels these drawings can be seen as ‘process art’. The ‘collaboration’ with the physical conditions that have determined the final appearance of the work is testament to the importance of the context of their creation. Hanson welcomes the unpredictable presence of wind, rain and sand in her drawings, elements that may traditionally be shunned resulting as they do in abrasions or creases. In these drawings such things contribute to a more detailed description of the environment. One work even incorporates the paw prints of a wayward dog!
The very process of drawing is clearly an important part of Hanson’s artistic endeavour. Drawing is about building, adding, subtracting, it is essentially transformative, allowing a very direct method of mark-making. It is immediate, responsive and allows great variation within the quality of the lines. In regards to Hanson’s project it is very interesting to note the double meaning of the word, both an artistic technique and a causal movement towards or away from something (drawing breath, to draw forth). Hanson’s drawings are a result of a dynamic and reciprocal process between the subject, the artist and the medium.
Hanson’s work is not however purely process driven, and the thing that differentiates it is that there is a final aspiration that goes above and beyond the physicality of producing the work. Hanson has expressed that her work attempts to discover the essence of her subject matter; this is what she is drawing out.
Given the constantly changing form of the sea, and of birds in flight, the idea of flux is central to these works, but in recording change Hanson hopes to reveal a commonality or essential quality. There is a long and rich philosophical history that addresses this very quandary, and one of the central issues within this discourse is reconciling the principal that all existence is based on continual flux and impermanence, with the concept of essences; is there anything that endures in the face of change, underpinning the maelstrom?
The notion of essences has an air of mystery to it, in that it may be presumed that an essence is imperceptible, or hidden, existing behind or within something. Hanson’s attempts to expose the essence of things by recording what can be perceived, is very much in line with philosopher Edmund Husserl’s approach to essences. As the founder of phenomenology Husserl claimed that essences are not metaphysical, but can be perceived directly through experience. Indeed, the meaning of the word phenomenology is from the Greek meaning “that which appears”.
The search for essences is no doubt complicated by the nature of human perception and understanding. We perceive constant change in the world, though we make sense of our experience by fixing meaning. Hanson’s project is a step towards negotiating this seeming paradox by creating a bridge between flux and essence. These works provide an otherwise impossible snap-shot of time and movement condensed into a single beautiful structure.
The question of essences is an ever-expanding line of enquiry for which Hanson’s works can be seen as a metaphor in their endless lines of bifurcation and confluence. Drawing as Becoming engages directly with the dynamism that is at the heart of her subjects; they are redolent with movement and a sense of the infinite.
 The notion that the process of making an artwork could be its content began in the 1960s in the United States. Usually resulting in a sculptural manifestation, ‘process art’ was a reaction to minimalism in that it highlights the presence of the artist and made use of the inherent qualities of the material.
Barr, B.J. Drawing and Undrawing, The University of Melbourne, 2009
Dahlberg, K. The essence of essences - the search for meaning structures in phenomenological analysis of lifeworld phenomena, International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 2006, 1: 11-19
Husserl, E. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, Kluwer Academic Publication, 1998
A Wing and a Prayer, 2009, graphite pencil on paper