By Aimee Serafin • Photo provided by Westobou
Wednesday, October 2, kicks off this year’s Westobou Festival in Augusta with the VIP reception at their downtown gallery (1129 Broad Street). Hannah Ehrlich is the festival’s marquee visual artist and her exhibit, The Stillness You See, is on exhibit from September 6 – October 18. Visit www.westobougallery.com for gallery times and hours.
Hannah Ehrlich seems to like exploring the worlds of chaos and order. Through inordinately large woven hangings, representing abstract landscapes, she presents the viewer with questions about the tension of human emotions. The Atlanta-based artist finds the exploration of emotions is similar to the process of creating woven works where lines are not always sequentially straight or uniform. They don’t start or end looking the same and the unpredictability of the surface varies expectedly as the process unfolds. The tension of her work is relatable to a mathematical expression called the stochastic process: a randomly determined pattern or process that may be analyzed statistically but not predicted precisely. For Ehrlich, human emotions resemble the stochastic process developed through her art. Her art is a place where chaos and order are given a creative shape to be explored… and questioned.
From the most feminine forms suspended like ghostly dressmaker stands on display in the gallery’s windows to the more inert rectangular pieces lining the left wall, the collection produces a weighted echo in the space. And although the first impressions of the largest work (117’’ x 280’’) entitled Irreconcilable Force recall a fisherman’s tale, the smaller grouped pieces adjacent to it are simultaneously interdependent and reliant. The panel of square materials is assembled, it seems, as a study. They are microcosms in a macrocosm setting. A lot like we humans.
Because the works function in non-traditional ways as both objects and two-dimensional surfaces, it causes the viewer to wonder about the nature of the fixed-object landscape. Is it a blanket or a rug? Is it happy or sad? The over-sized pieces have dense striated overlaps that protrude, at times, like skin lesions and other times like clumpy enormous animal-like shapes. They are approachable yet troubling. Stable yet mysterious. But the emotion evoked most while observing them within the gallery space is stillness. Something about the bleached monotone sections of black to gray to burned-out creams inside a sea of graduating knots, divots, holes, and loops makes for a quiet space. A pause. Perhaps an internal reflection.
While Ehrlich may be inviting personal introspection from her viewers, the works themselves are confidently stoic. They seem to open up the space to wonder. As I stood looking at the twisting lines and soft curves, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would see if allowed the opportunity to look beneath the patterns. Behind the surface. Outside the knots. It seems to exist an even greater stillness there to observe.
Aimee Serafin, editor of the Augusta Family Magazine.