By Shannon Gallagher, MAM
Multi-media artist Karina Hean’s childhood in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, and various interactions with the environment, have greatly influenced her work. However, much of the landscape imagery in her work stems from a relationship with a variety of different terrains, including the California coastline, the deserts and mountains of New Mexico and Utah, national parks in Arkansas, and the rapidly changing weather in coastal Ireland.
Hean’s work, although grounded in drawing, explores all aspects of the medium. She utilizes graphite, charcoal, and conte crayon, as well as watercolor, gouache, ink, and acrylic paint to create multi-dimensional, textural interpretations of the natural world. The work is intuitive, especially in her smaller pieces. She said, “The addition of one component might yield the need for other components to be added or adjusted. I have worked in this manner for over a decade, which creates a rhythm, but can also be predictable at times.” Hean finds that this creates a need to be open- although she may have a vision of what the piece will look like in terms of structure, how that might come into clarity (in terms of depth and color) is variable.
Hean’s pieces range from small and intimate (11 x 17”) to large and boisterous (52 x 72”). She describes the manner in which she works at various scales as widely different. “The large scale works require a lot of physical energy, space, and confidence- both to create the work and to really seeit. It is very gestural, and I must genuinely believe in the next mark I am going to make. The large pieces allow me to create a balance of being brash, loud, and rambunctious versus quiet, sensitive, and shy. The smaller work is a little more refined- each decision is carefully made, and I must edit the marks more thoroughly.”
Numerous artist residencies have provided Hean with an opportunity to conceive new work, as well as an invigorating experience to encourage the creation process. Travel and change have been a great source of stimulation and inspiration. “These residencies have been excellent, because they allow me to take the landscape in, and see new forms and structures. It prevents stagnation, because each place has something new to offer.” Hean was able to spend a longer period of time in Ireland than other residencies, which made the experience more impactful. “The dramatic weather landscape there is a balance of drama and rationality, which resulted in a struggle to make reason with emotional weather or impassable landscapes. There could be gale force storms one minute, and sunshine and rainbows the next, which was great. The west coast provided plenty of space to spend all day wandering the rocky beaches. The beaches were strewn with kelp, piled up from the tides. The tangled heaps of kelp were vibrantly hued, visceral, and fleshy. The interweaving, repetitive network of forms inspired me then, and the photographs I took while I was there continue to inform my work. I saw tidal pools rich with life, sea anemones, and amazing ranges of hues. This really hit a palette note, and birthed a brand new brazenness with color in my work, as I had previously worked in a more monochromatic manner.”
Hean also utilizes physical activity, music, and other forms of art to stimulate her creativity. “When all is right in the world, I get to run every day and hike a few times a week. That’s a big part of the work, and Santa Fe is a great access point for these things. The work benefits from this because it creates a sense of motion. I play music, purely as an amateur, and reading poetry and literature also comes into play. Other forms of art tend to feed into both what happens in the piece and how I come to understand it.”
Karina Hean’s organic, abstract works evoke polar feelings of chaos and calm by juxtaposing imagery derived from landscapes, weather patterns, and colors in the natural world. The color palette and physical structure present in her work, combined with a layered composition, result in exciting, enigmatic mixed media drawings and paintings that leave the viewer intrigued and aesthetically stimulated. Her work is display, along with paintings by Charles Gniech, through November 24, 2012 at ZIA Gallery.