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Hannah Tilson’s work takes its lead from dazzle camouflage, which in its original World War I-era naval context, was not meant to conceal; rather, the intersecting geometric patterns make it difficult to estimate a ship’s range, speed and direction of travel. This provides a clue to the disorientating experience of Tilson’s work. In ‘Lonely City’, for instance, ‘It’s quite hard to see that there's a figure there, and if I hadn't outlined the figure with the lino, you probably wouldn't notice that there were knees at the bottom and an arm coming down and hair at the top,’ Tilson says.
Instead, the viewer might first be drawn to the intricate pattern in the top left, the way it meets the larger, gauzy blue area like the coastline on a map. The canvas’ scale (100 x 65 cm) and its crossed wooden beams, visible through the layers of mixed media, recall an average UK window, and this basic structure conspires with slabs of white to suggest light passing through. Yet, opposingly, the faded colour of the kneeling figure suggests something like sun-damaged wallpaper. Either way, time is passing. Sensitive to ephemera, and calling attention to its own materials, ‘Lonely City’ enacts a feeling similar to the Japanese phrase ‘mono no aware’, an awareness of the transience of things. Attempting to connect with the kneeling figure, who is in any case turned away, the viewer finds pleasure in unexpected patterns and spaces and settles into the sense of alone-togetherness described by the work’s title. ‘For me,’ Tilson says, ‘Lonely City has that mixture of huzz and buzz, the busyness of the city, next to the feeling of being alone.’
Lonely City, 2023
100 x 60 cm
Mixed media (Pigment in binder and lino print on textile, pigment in binder on watercolour paper)
Signed on reverse.
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