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March 15, 2024

Gallery Exhibition featuring the Artwork of Hannah Seng

The John M. Crawford, Jr. Art Gallery presents “Harmony in the Highlands: An Appalachian Odyssey in Painting.” The exhibition, showcasing the paintings by local artist Hannah Seng, opens on Wednesday, March 20. Community members are invited to a reception in the gallery on Wednesday, March 20 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for an evening with the artist. The exhibition runs through Thursday, April 18.

Hannah Seng draws from nature to inspire subject matter when she paints, and in turn she paints to inspire her curiosity in nature. Her paintings, acrylic, mostly on canvas or panel, explore negative space, movement, and form as much as they depict flora, fauna, and landscapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. With splendor ever at her doorstep, and having known these mountains her entire life, her subjects are all informed by this place.

Hannah shares the following about “Harmony in the Highlands: An Appalachian Odyssey in Painting”:

My subject matter is nature, and in my paintings I invite you to glimpse the extraordinary in what might be otherwise mundane. 

Lines and forms draw the eye across the entire picture plane, hopefully to reveal just as much attention placed on each negative space as the objects in the foreground. Each painting begins with the question “What is it you are trying to show?” The birds – almost always three of them because I like small, odd numbers – are set in place across the canvas, and then given branches like lines in a connect-the-dots activity. The lines of the branches draw the eye to and fro, but it’s only natural to want to see where the eyes of the birds are directed. Their gazes create invisible lines, and you might follow those to treasures hidden in the thicket. In my long-range landscapes I break the picture plane up with shapes of color, and I create movement with the brushstrokes themselves. While my color choices are not precise representations of what I might actually see in nature, they enhance the sumptuousness as I experience it in the studio. Paint is an opportunity to play with color, to push its boundaries and awaken its very essence to evoke serenity or tension in the painting, and determine its entire mood.

 I began painting in acrylics out of necessity – working in a small home studio requires a paint medium that dries quickly for easy storage, and isn’t filled with noxious fumes, like oils. I like paint I can almost sculpt with as I push it across the canvas, something more substantial than flowing watercolors. It wasn’t love at first brushstroke – acrylic colors dry darker than they appear when they are first laid down, and they dry incredibly fast, which has made for years of frustrating, unintended outcomes. However, with an idea of what I want from acrylic paint, I have set out on the long odyssey of noble adventures and hardships of embracing an elusive medium. On this road I have discovered great joy in what acrylic paint has to offer – a fast-drying, luscious, almost wily character that taunts me to tame it, yet it still can leave me not fully convinced I have mastered it. Maybe that’s just what it is to make art. How similar it is, then, to the natural world of the Blue Ridge, whose own ancient wild wisdom runs deep, and still surprises me with that which it has to teach. The process of dancing with this paint is as much the subject matter as the finished paintings you see on these walls.

My figure paintings settle deeper into a realm of magical narrative. Mostly women and occasionally myself, these paintings explore my identity as a woman and my relationship with nature. A branchy thicket instead of a human body. A fluttering, tender wren where there ought to be a heart. I have always loved drawing and painting faces, ever since I was a little girl, and these figures pay homage to that. Some figures are nestled deep in their surroundings; others look more like religious icons. In whatever way they emerge from the canvas or panel, these figures are the tangible bridge to the spirit of the natural world.

In an age when we humans are more disconnected from nature and its rhythms than ever, I employ my paintings to feed my curiosity in the natural world and my place in it. It is my hope that they do the same for you.

Learn more about the artist here.

Gallery Hours are Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Saturday by appointment only. To make an appointment, please contact Ms. Casey Arbor via email ([email protected]) or phone 828.254.6345 x 4037.