Brushing life Into layers

Written by: Susanna Andrew
All art compels us to be present in some way. In a world that often whirls with the hustle and bustle of modernity, Hannah Jensen’s creations are the product of months of cumulative strokes of paint and delicate carving and a path to mindfulness through her artistry. 
Ever since Hannah Jensen swapped computer studies for art at secondary school she knew where her career was heading. Completing a Bachelor of Art and Design at the Auckland University of Technology confirmed her intentions.
Inspired by the work of two of the tutors, the artists Monique Jansen and Felicity West, Hannah enrolled in printmaking however, her signature technique of carving into paint did not come from the lectern but from ‘an accident’ in her second year of study. 
“At the time I was frustrated with myself” she says “I was procrastinating and layered too many layers of paint onto two huge boards that I was going to carve through, into the wood but the minute I sliced into the work I knew I had discovered a medium that I could work with and could carve into the paint itself”
Luckily she had a friend who worked in Resene and was able to source her ‘‘seconds paint’ cheaply. “I tried all the paints – the enamels and the acrylics – and through experimenting, found a recipe that I still use to this day.”
Resene Lumbersider has just the right amount of viscosity and elasticity. She layers the paint onto boards, lets it dry and repeats again – 40 – 80 times. Once complete she picks up her tool – a Speedball lino cutter (the smallest size available), and carves with meticulous detail to reveal colours, conjuring up wild animals and florals.
All her colours are from the Resene palette, a leopard for instance may take up to four colours, and she layers them from dark to light, with the depth of the tool determining the shades revealed. Any leftover paint is used in other works with the empty tins all taken back to Resene “because they do such an amazing job with their recycling”. 
Demand for her work is high, particularly because at the end of 2020 one of her works went viral on instagram and things went “a bit crazy” for a while. A work can take two months to layer (up to six months to complete) but the arrival of her daughter this year has meant a different pace. She chooses to layer slowly – 1 – 3 layers depending on the weather and carve during naps, while juggling childcare.
It’s been validating as an artist to have so many commissions and Hannah really enjoyed the connections. However, as a new mother she has had to reassign some of her time.
“Instagram is my platform now where I share my ideas. I put a concept sketch up and people can buy off the platform.”
But when a work has such a long gestation period it’s only natural that the artist is sensitive to who owns it in the end. “I only hope that the work goes to the right person,” she says. 

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