The series of photographic prints, entitled Smoke began in 2012 when I discovered my first grey hair. I was so excited by the idea that I had crossed-over into a new part of my existence and also the feeling of being suddenly wiser and more mature. I initially made three photographic prints from scanning the single hair, using a plain book back cover as a background. I tried to laminate the hair but accidentally burnt it into the plastic laminating sheet and ruined it.
I never looked for grey hairs and forgot about the work until an old friend reminded me of the original prints. In early 2017 I asked a friend to look for grey hairs on my head, she found a lot more than one and I filled a clear ziplock bag with about twenty. I managed to remember which plain book back cover I had used before and produced fourteen scanned images of the grey hairs. I had chosen the title Smoke because of the grey of the hairs, the fluid lines they created when dropped onto the flatbed scanner glass and the ephemeral nature they evoked. This feeling of finiteness, ageing and decaying.
Hannah Lees’ work investigates the sense that things come to an end and the potential for new beginnings; ideas of cycles, constancy and mortality. This constancy, be it in religion, science, history or in organic matter, is visible in her practice through her attempts to make sense of, and recognise, traces of life. Through appreciating this, her work is focused towards an understanding of the essential nature of the materials she uses as well as allowing space for shifts in context to occur, in order to disrupt interpretation and allow for new meaning. Her practice encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, textiles, ceramics, internet art, performance, writing, sound and video.
Hannah Lees (b. 1983, Kent, United Kingdom) lives and works in Margate and London, UK. She completed a Post-Graduate Diploma at Chelsea College of Art, London, UK (2011) and a Foundry Residency at the Royal College of Art, London, UK (2012). Previous exhibitions include: Mantel, Copperfield, London, UK (group); The Sleeping Procession, CASS Sculpture Foundation, Goodwood, UK (group); When branches emerge undivided, Slugtown, Newcastle, UK (solo); The Turning of Existence into its Opposite, Kingsgate Project Space, London, UK (solo); Vital Materiality, Assembly Point, London, UK (group). Turner Contemporary & the British Museum Commission: Hannah Lees, Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (solo); The Oldest Thing You Can Hold In Your Hand, Workbench, Milan, IT (solo); Overview, SAMUEL Gallery, Chicago, IL, USA (group).
Current & Forthcoming exhibitions and residencies include: Always The Real Thing, White Crypt, London, UK (group); British Council UK/ID Exchange Residency, Bakudapan, ID; The Trees That Yield, Whitstable Biennale, UK (solo); Kupfer, London, UK (group); Barnie’s Gallery, London, UK (solo).
With thanks to Sandy Barnard, Trent Walter,