Standing in front of one of Hannah Quinlivan’s alluring abstract wall sculptures (which she calls “spatial drawings”), prints or paintings, is like looking through a microscope at a living organism and admiring its intrinsic beauty. Quinlivan works across multiple media, using printmaking, drawing, painting and sculpture to create artworks that are seemingly endless. Lines twist and turn, ebb and flow and cause a sense of movement and undulation – of life and vitality.

The art world is not often regarded as being similar to the scientific community. The stereotype of an artist does not usually seem in line with that of the nerdy or nutty scientist. However, in both artists’ studios and scientists’ laboratories, the unique investigation of quite focused and specific ideas is explored in fine detail.

The work of Hannah Quinlivan is born of the act of looking and observing. Like a scientist, Quinlivan is interested in the minutia of things. Through her practice, she explores how minute details contain traces of the grander processes that they constitute. As Quinlivan explains, “even a tiny element of a larger structure can give you an insight into the whole.”

However, it is the poetics of process that see the disciplines of art and science diverge from one another. Where objectivity is key to science, subjectivity is often the guiding force of an artist’s practice. This is especially true for Quinlivan whose work, she says, is heavily structured around “the subjective experience of memory, the process of remembering and forgetting, and shifting lines of thought”.

With a deep commitment to the exploration of – and innate response to – her materials, Quinlivan composes artworks that exude a meditative and lyrical quality. Abstract in their rendering and varied in their materiality, Quinlivan stitches together deeply personal and intuitive responses to her existence through line and form. Each artwork recalls the experience of passing time on the continuum of life, honing in on the processes of thinking and feeling rather than on particular thoughts or emotions. Quinlivan uses her materials as a visual vernacular to express that which she is trying to portray. She explains: “the choice of material, method, texture, scale and weight is made on the basis of the sort of affect I want to evoke, the conversation I want the artworks to have among themselves. I take an existing idea, feeling or thought and make it material, and inflecting ideas into the tangible.”

This latest body of work – Synecdoche – continues Quinlivan’s investigation of scale through the experiments in perspective and proximity. Synecdoche is imbued with a sensibility of feeling and emotion, educed through her expert command and use of line. Density, weight, texture, and material construction all come together to create layered and sophisticated artworks that invite the viewer to look deep into the detail while simultaneously guiding them to step back and immerse themselves in the affective environment Quinlivan has created.

Essay by Owen Craven, UAP Curator