For her virtual residency, Hannah Lewis put together an online exhibition of photographs, prose and poetry documenting the development of a new work. Hannah’s practice is inspired by the beauty of the flora and changing landscape in her local environment; the bushland, beach and her garden, and nature’s capacity to restore and invigorate.
My garden and the bush have been centre point to my life and my art.
As a child I loved the simplicity and humility of my Pa’s garden with its ordered lines of vegetables and its carefully pruned espaliered pear trees.
My maternal grandfather had a beautiful garden in Sherbrooke, full of rhododendrons and camelias and exotic plants like a Garrya Eliptica and Tortuous Filbert. This garden was my Eden my ‘secret garden’ a special place full of magic and possibility. We would take a billy across the road to Sherbrooke forest and cook cocktail Frankfurt’s in the open fire pits. I remember the joy of watching a lyrebird spread its tails and scratch the earth. This was one of my first experience of being immersed in the bush and experiencing the majesty of towering trees.
These threads came together years later in my work and provided subject matter and inspiration; the sinuous forms of trees, and the unique detail of Australian flora. My own garden, that has evolved over 36 years, has shadows of both my grandfather’s gardens imprinted into it.
It is my quiet place, my sanctuary and my living meditation.
So too, is the bush close to where we live. Coolart reserve at the end of our street and the Balnarring and Merricks foreshore reserves, are full of healthy, abundant indigenous plants, sweet bursaria, native clematis, banksias, raspberries, manna gums to name a few.
Over the last 3 years I have been involved in the Save Westernport campaign. I fear for what might be damaged in our local marine and coastal environment. This, and the stories of the appalling loss of flora, fauna and habitat as a result of the bushfires, has heightened for me the need to continue to record and celebrate the detail of the bush that is part of my world.
I like to capture the detail and architectural beauty of Australian plants in my work and linocut printmaking lends itself to this.
It has always been easy to place flowers in the form of a vase, but I wanted to break away from this and add another layer to my work. I was wanting to hold a more complex story within the shape of each print.
Earlier this year, I started a series of dresses, using these as a ‘frame’ to celebrate our beautiful flora. I have always been interested in textiles, specifically those that are made by artisans and clothing that is timeless and artful, the antithesis of fast fashion. The dress, for me, is also a metaphor for being enveloped by nature and wearing it close to your skin and heart.
On one of my recent daily walks I was excited to find a Goodia lotifolia, commonly known as golden tip or clover tree, flowering near Merricks Yacht Club. I had just planted one outside a bedroom window. I love its yellow pea flower.
The mosses were flourishing after the heavy rains, each ‘patch’ like a little world on its own. The old banksia trunks, next to the steps down to the cave beach, were covered in the grey greens of lichens and moss.
This shirt is a hand coloured linocut print, inspired by my recent walks through the Merricks foreshore. It includes details of the local flora, lichen, mosses and seaweed.
The plethora of seaweed brought in on the Winter tides, inspired my latest work.
I wanted to write about my experience of discovering this seaweed tapestry strewn all over the sand. It reminded me too, of draping swathes of seaweed over our heads with our children, pretending to me mermaids or creatures of the deep.
A fragile, place that speaks of quietude
No glitter, sequins, gaudy balloons
No turquoise lush, beckoning seductively
Just the sweep of sky and wash of waves
Slate and storm greys
A weaving of nature’s charms and treasures
Streamers of seaweed
Baubles of Neptune’s necklace
Salmon pink tracery
No plastic or debris
Just grit of sand and shell and rock
Bones of driftwood
Swathes of bull kelp
Swirl and spiral of shell
No show and pomp and pretence
Just raw, resonating beauty
This dress is based on an amalgam of elements of two vintage woollen coats I bought years ago. One is a red boucle collarless coat with big black shiny buttons and the other one is a gorgeous blue green mohair one, the colour of which reminds me of moss and the sea.
I used two plates for this design. The first plate is for the base colour and the second plate is the seaweed design.
I wanted to work with a yellow background so that you get the silhouette of the seaweed on the sand.
Firstly, I look at all my photos to select which types of seaweed I want to include in my design. I am looking for shape and form. I build a picture, staying aware of the negative space that will be coloured in the final design.
I draw the design in pencil and then go over it with permanent marker when I happy with it.
Once I have carved my design, I ink up the plate and do a trial print to see if I need to do any more detailing.
I hand burnish my prints with a baren, finishing off with the back of a soup spoon. It is a challenge, without a press, to get the registration and I lost a few prints in the process. Being 1mm out with the placing of the second plate can mean the loss of a print.
I trialled 2 different papers and two different colours with this print. I liked the thicker whiter paper and the brighter yellow. I put a touch of red into the yellow when mixing the ink. It reminded me of the colour of the seaweeds that inspired the design.
I plan to continue the theme of clothing and want to further explore the rich diversity of seaweed on the shorelines close to us.
About the Virtual Residency program
Mornington Peninsula Shire’s internationally significant Police Point Artist in Residence program supports between 25 – 30 local, national and international artists each year. The program supports a wide range of emerging, mid-career and established artists, with more than half of the annual allocation of residencies granted to Peninsula-based artists to develop and foster their artistic practice.
In response to COVID-19 and in the corresponding interests of public safety, the Police Point Artist in Residence program was temporarily suspended in 2020. Mornington Peninsula Shire developed a virtual residency program to support the Peninsula-based artists who had previously successfully applied to continue to develop and deliver creative works.