Published October 25, 2020
Stories are very much the fabric of Hanna Pettyjohn's paintings, just as fabrics are featured strongly in them. Not just fabrics but various textural fragments are recurrining iconography that build the narrative painterly surfaces of her mostly large-scale portraits. These textural fragments are gathered from memory, travels, or intimate connections with others. They serve to crystallize various narratives that often touch on themes of anxiety, loneliness, alienation, displacement, home, and diaspora.
They have also evolved over time. Textiles, for instance, once chosen as a tactile and soft equivalent of comforting memories have taken on the character of memory itself. Fading and decaying, these pieces of cloth and wool are rendered incomplete, for which their incompleteness has become a convenient tool for abstraction and ambiguity.
The earth or clay-like textures too that appear in her paintings are an added layer of meaning that's both consistent and highly personal. Coming from a family known for the kneading of clay and the firing of kilns into pots, Pettyjohn considers clay and paint as "conceptually tied" together. The earthy, lumpy, and irregular surfaces of her paintings likely stem from how she thinks of paint as close to the sensuous and tactile potential of clay.
This idea of interconnected materials and their textural possibilities extend outside of her paintings to sculptural installations. For Pettyjohn, both sculptures and paintings are permutations of the same ideas. They are different but the same. "I keep thinking about expressing the same object or thought process in varied ways."
Hannah Pettyjohn is a Filipina contemporary artist and a recipient of CCP's 13 Artists Award in 2015. She has exhibited in Manila, Miami, Taipei, Singapore, and Hong Kong.