Interview with Hannah Perry Saucier

Our Administration Director, Julia Kulon, sat down with Hannah Perry Saucier about her solo show "The Chip", currently on display at the gallery.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and cohesion. 

"Shapeshifting" by Hannah Perry Saucier, 2014. Oil on canvas, framed. Image courtesy of the gallery.

"Shapeshifting" by Hannah Perry Saucier, 2014. Oil on canvas, framed. Image courtesy of the gallery.

MATTHEW RACHMAN GALLERY: How do you think about landscape?

HANNAH PERRY SAUCIER: Everything is fragmented for me. I fracture things in my mind [as opposed to] seeing them as one, singular being. I really love the geometry I find when looking at things. I don’t always find this kind of geometry around me, but light and dark spaces are particularly suggestive of value—in my way of painting, I see similarities in landscape and portraiture.

   The newer landscapes I’m doing nowadays still have geometric elements such as a geometric sky or water, but [they are now] combined with more traditional painterly effects. I wanted to start blending the two together to have a juxtaposition of the organic forms with geometric ones.

"Current of Niangua" by Hannah Perry Saucier. Acrylic on canvas, framed. Image courtesy of the gallery.

"Current of Niangua" by Hannah Perry Saucier. Acrylic on canvas, framed. Image courtesy of the gallery.

MRG: I was actually wondering about the relationship between the organic and geometric in your work. Your paintings have very flat and graphic elements, but they are combined with organic and primal shapes.

HPS: I have a tendency to over-calculate in my work. Before I set out to paint, I sketch everything out and have everything set in place. The applying of color changes elements here or there, they will shift in the process. Nonetheless, I would be filling in my initial composition.

   I felt that I needed to find a way to break out of this tendency. One direction I took was to do one section of a given painting in a very solid, graphic manner while doing another part, like the trees and grass, in a very fluid and playful manner.

   “Untitled” is an example where the improvisation comes with through the forms themselves, although they retain their graphic flatness.

MRG: Your use of color is very bold. Your color choices make me think about how I remember things. I feel like because memory can heighten or over exaggerate the certain aspects of a given recollection—there's a certain brightness, vividness to those specific parts. Do your colors have any relationship?

HPS: Color, for me, is very intuitive. I dream in color; my memories are in color. My sense of sight above the other senses is much stronger as well, but I think, particularly, in the way I see colors.

   “Shapeshifting” is a representation of a past, present and future self; there’s three selves embedded within the landscape, and the landscape, in turn, is embedded in the figure. We’re inside the landscape physically, and the landscape is inside our minds. We’re perceiving it at all times. The present self is moving [in the work], and above the self's head there’s a little orb, containing a thought inside of it. The thought is red. For this one element, the use of color was very intentional. Anxiety of being in the present moment, moving through thoughts which can be stressful or painful.

   I use color in the way it comes to me. I try to balance color in terms of value and tone to create a sense of rhythm. Nowadays I’m simply drawn to colors. I mix all of my colors. I don’t use anything from tube; I mix until I get the colors I want. I’ll shift my colors a bit as I'm applying them on canvas, once I see how the colors are responding to one another.

MRG: What is memory for you?

HPS: Everyone has a plethora of memories, even a person who’s lived in the same place all their life is going to have a wealth of experiences, things that have happened to them. I’ve lived in five different countries in my life so far, and done a lot of traveling.

   This body of work comes from a sketch I made for a class where we had been prompted to make a self-portrait. At that point in my life, I was thinking a lot about all the experiences I had accumulated from living in places that were all so different from one another, and how, despite all of this, I was still one person. I felt very fragmented in certain ways. I would go into certain situations, and find myself in a certain role for a little while before having to shift mentally when going back to another culture, job, school.

    The work for the project was originally more symbolic. Made out of orbs, I had a figure connected together with lines. Inside [each orb] there was an image representing a fragment of a place I had lived in, or, a feeling I had felt at the time. It was a meditation into the relationships these fragments had to one another. Eventually, I turned the sketch into a painting where all these different orbs with their contained imagery became connected geometrically. I think all you’ve done or experienced in life is somehow always within you. Depending on what you’re focusing on or where you are, different aspects of your being are much stronger and present than others; but everything still is embedded in you somewhere.

   When I made the move from symbolism to abstraction in my work, I started thinking about how certain memories begin to fade. You either completely forget about them, or you begin to remember only certain aspects of the memory. The specific symbolism is gone; the forms become more and more abstract until, eventually, they are reduced to pure form.

"Eye of the Moon Storm" by Hannah Perry Saucier, 2015. Mixed media on canvas, framed. Image courtesy of the gallery.

"Eye of the Moon Storm" by Hannah Perry Saucier, 2015. Mixed media on canvas, framed. Image courtesy of the gallery.

 

When I made the move from symbolism to abstraction in my work, I started thinking about how certain memories begin to fade. You either completely forget about them, or you begin to remember only certain aspects of the memory. The specific symbolism is gone; the forms become more and more abstract until, eventually, they are reduced to pure form.

 

MRG: Does scale influence the way you work?

HPS: The truth, if I could, I would be working large scale pieces all the time. It's not always possible to be working on multiple, giant pieces at the same time with the space I have, so I end up having to work smaller. With that said, though, each individual [geometric] piece in each painting is a smaller piece of work in itself. The little details, even in their flatness, become their own environment.

    “Untitled”, “Shapeshifting” and “Wiggle World (The World is Wiggly)”, mostly layered oil paint pieces, are all completely painted by hand—without the help of tape. “Untitled” has a bit of acrylic in it, but this is indiscernible because of the paint's matte quality. You need to look at the work very closely to see the little details of the brushstroke, texture of the canvas. In my smaller works, these details create far more intimate spaces. Whereas looking at “Shapeshifting” each fragment is much larger—there’s more going on within [that] given section. This creates a different experience for me and the viewer. When I’m creating smaller works, I’m more enclosed in them and with bigger works, the process feels far more physical.

MRG: A lot of aspects in your work suggest total control: you’re mixing your own colors, making your own frames. You stretch your own canvas. There’s a lot of self-agency in your work.

HPS: I think you’ve picked up on a big aspect of my personality, my trying to control things… which is why, (laughs), in my newer works, I’ve been making an effort to let things go, to make more improvisational works. “The Wiggle World (The World is Wiggly)" is reflective of my trying to let go. I had initially sketched it out as I usually do with my works, but in the process of filling it out, I started to create some impromptu forms— I was no longer figuring it out in a strictly mathematical way. •

"The Chip", Paintings by Hannah Perry Saucier, runs through to September 17, 2017 at Matthew Rachman Gallery.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: HANNAH PERRY SAUCIER RECEIVED HER BFA FROM THE SCHOOL OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, AND HAS STUDIED IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY (HISAR EGITIM VAKFI, 2008-2009), PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA (THE UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA, 2012), SAUGATUCK, MICHIGAN (OX-BOW SCHOOL OF ART, 2013), AND FURTHERED HER WORK IN BANGKOK, THAILAND. SHE CURRENTLY LIVES IN BARCELONA, SPAIN.

Julia Kulon