writings, projects and exhibitions of Clarissa Chikiamco

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Full Circle

I love the work of Hanna Pettyjohn and I'm so glad I was able to write about her for Preview. I first saw her work in May 2006, when she had her first solo exhibit at Mag:net ABS. I found it so original and different from what other artists in Manila are doing! I have pics of her show up in my multiply but best to check the pics she has at hannapettyjohn.multiply.com.

The published piece had been edited a bit so I'm posting the original one in full here. Cheers!

Full Circle

For many artists who toil for their art, the end product after months of hard work is something that should be maintained, preserved and safeguarded. But for artist Hanna Pettyjohn who destroys her works of art and recreates them into new art forms, her works are in a continuous progression—not to simply be maintained but to be regenerated into something new.

“I really like the way this process is potentially limitless,” says Hanna, who uses stoneware clay in her works. “I’d like to keep working with this process.” While her practice may be seen as cyclic in its creation-destruction-recreation, the process doesn’t return to the same, never resulting in an identical work of art. This is something Hanna has explored since college where she studied fine arts at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. “For my thesis I made figurative works and broke them, then made sculptures out of the shards, cast the sculptures in wax, melted the wax, cast that in sugar, and so on,” she says. She graduated in 2005 yet continued in exploring this creative process for her first and second solo exhibitions held last year. “I broke bust pieces I made in college and used the shards to fill the eggs I made for my first solo exhibition. I broke and melted the eggs and then used the shards and wax from it to make the mattress piece for my second solo show.” The outcome of these events is a series of works that are linked to each other and laden with layers of meaning from the forms they were before.

The process, believes Hanna, is very similar to writing, which she also often does. “I think putting something I make through a process like this where the object is created, destroyed, then reconstructed into something else is a lot like writing, and totally relevant to me personally.”

The personal touch is something critical for Hanna, who counts French-born artist Louis Bourgeios, known for her deeply personal works, as an inspiring influence. In her first solo exhibition, The Elaborate Nest Between Child and Breast, Hanna composed a quilt from items that belonged to her late grandmother and items she painted of her grandmother’s belongings. The quilt was placed on a bed where on top lay Hanna’s sculpture of a bird, its maternal setting in a sense recalling the term “mother hen.” Stoneware clay eggs, oozing wax and spilling out slices and splinters of old forms, were placed around the exhibition area amidst stoneware clay hearts sprouting pieces from a common household mainstay, the walis ting-ting.

For her next show, Hanna thinks she may be working with painting, something she has been doing a lot of lately. While the show is yet uncertain with no definite date and venue in mind, it is certain to continue exploring Hanna’s regenerative process—a process that has infinite potential, just like its maker.

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