We invite you to engage with the work of our resident artists by visiting The Fragile Power of Drawing - a virtual residency exhibition, presented as part of the 2020/21 Drawing Research Program.
Join Hannah as she shares her research from her studio in Los Angeles, while virtually transporting us to the Paris studio-museums through this Q&A series with curator Rahma Khazam.
How do you see the relation between your anatomical drawings and the work of Chana Orloff, Ossip Zadkine and Antoine Bourdelle?
Chana Orloff, Ossip Zadkine, and Antoine Bourdelle all worked in the realms of figurative art which meant that they most likely had studied the human form extensively and also anatomically. As an educator I’m interested in how artists have historically learned their craft, and I find the best learning happens in an interdisciplinary practice. Even though these artists were working on creating the human exterior, in order to understand that one needs to understand what’s underneath the skin. There’s a good chance these artists studied the anatomy of the human body and drew it extensively in order to master figurative sculpting!
Object in Inferior View (pink one in progress, blue is finished), Hannah Stahulak, 2021
While your work is realistic in nature, I like the way you've combined realism and abstraction. Could you talk about how you apply these ideas in these and other works of yours? And especially the tension between realism and abstraction?
I like balancing between the realms of realism and abstraction. Some people see my work as realistic and others have no idea what they are looking at (which I get a kick out of). When I was in school, I really struggled with which camp I fell into, and then realized I can be both. As a person I don’t feel like I’ve ever belonged in only one category, so why should my artwork? In terms of creating, I do usually start with a reference image (usually medical) of some kind. However I am selective with what I use in the reference image, it might only be a portion of an entire image. My drawings usually have no context or background either which can also leave them feeling abstract. I like leaving a lot up to the viewer, the idea I had going into a drawing does not need to be what the viewer gets out of it. I’ve valued artists like Georgia O'Keeffe whose references are from reality yet the viewer gets lost in what they are seeing. Abstract stems from realism, you’re choosing to change parts of it, you don’t need to lose the whole thing.
What is special about drawing for you?
Drawing is special for me in many ways, but I think the first thing that comes to mind is how drawing is built into every one of us. Some of our earliest records in history are drawn images. From when children are first given a pencil, they know what to do. Drawing is one of the most natural things I think we can do. I’ve always gotten so much satisfaction from drawing, it feels like home to me. It’s a way for me to process my world, my surroundings, my feelings, whether directly or indirectly. To know and love drawing is to have a deep level of connection to yourself and your surroundings. Drawing has in the past been overshadowed by mediums such as painting or sculpture, but it’s at the base of both those practices. I think all good artists have a solid foundation in drawing, because when you can draw you can create anything.
About Hannah Stahulak
Visit the exhibition online for more video and text conversations with the participating artists.
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Cover Image: L'AiR Arts residents, Multidisciplinary Program, January 2020