In Hannah Lees’ work Eternal XII (Issy Miyake) a purposely low-res clip from a scent commercial found on YouTube is looped, creating an unending sunrise or sunset. The work acknowledges the dilemma of how to communicate a scent via technology; as advertising contends with the inherent difficulties in promoting the olfactory the work becomes indicative of some of the broader themes within Lees’ practice – such as the point at which the fleeting and the eternal meet, as she investigates ideas of cycles, constancy and mortality. The sound installation, Zauber, also addresses this, in the form of an extracted, remixed element from the opera Die Zauberflöte. Rep- resenting a breakdown of transference, the original piece of music was played to the artist while in the womb. Years later it was replayed to her with an expectation of recognition, none was forthcoming.
Lees’ intrinsic use of her chosen materials incorporates ethnography and alchemy through her deployment of some of the fundamen- tal elements of life. Vegetable dye, one of her key materials and extracted from her daily use, becomes a fluid material in her hands, a vibrant matter as a transfer of energy occurs from one form into another. A Past and a Future (III and IV) becomes a depository for this transfer, as the felt surface of an oversized beanbag is flooded with bright dyes. The act of bleaching or staining is central to the two beanbag works, and is also seen in the drips of dye streaming down sections of the gallery wall (A light here required a shadow there II). There is a sense of things coming to an end and the potential for new beginnings. Lees has spoken of the sense of optimism and pathos in her practice, and these works bear testament to this.
A repurposing of materials is a common theme with the work, finding potential for the used and overlooked. This is witnessed in the Tablet series while the exhibition title, Ever Old Newness /|\ Ever New Oldness, also acknowledges a drawing on the past; the brass casts, These ruins were once a monument (Coldrum Stones and Kit’s Coty), are taken from foraged fruit and nuts found while walk- ing between two ancient Megalithic sites in Kent. Lees’ casting technique involves burning out the original nut shell and replacing the negative space with brass, thus preserving a certain moment, while allowing for ongoing changes within the work as the brass becomes shinier with every handling.
Hannah Lees b. 1983, Margate (UK). Lives and works in London. Recent Exhibitions & Projects include: Adventures in Clay, Bronze & Stone, Arezzo, IT (2015); m-Health, Cell Project Space, London, UK (2015); Hold, Sway, Generator Projects, Dundee, UK (2015); 4 REAL DEAR (curated by Attilia Fattori Franchini); Open Source, London, UK (2015); Bitches Brew Daughter of Bastard Son of Hot Sauce (curated by LAW OFFICE) NEWD Art Show, Brooklyn NY, US (2015); John, Sunday Painter, London, UK (2015). Forthcoming Exhibitions include: Hannah Lees, Cairn Gallery, Pittenweem, Scotland, UK (2015); Global Committee, Brooklyn, NY, US (2015); ArtSway, New Forest, Hampshire, UK (2016); Micro Residency, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (2016); I-X Context Sensitive, Dreaming of Streaming, ANDOR, London, UK (2015)