Hannah Beehre’s Travellers takes the viewer into the far reaches of the atmosphere – and beyond. Her dyed textile works suggest immense and largely unknowable powers, and seem more akin to a glimpse of creation (or the Creator?) than the visual reinterpretation of quantifiable scientific data. Phenomena that are only observable through permutations of physics and chemistry are not only physically but also conceptually light-years distant from most of humankind and ‘artist’s impressions’ have been used for decades to provide images of the universe for the lay audience. Beehre extends this tradition to produce works which are like windows into a terrible and beautiful world.
Through the use of velvet and silk, Beehre renders the ephemeral in dense, tactile colour. Dyes impregnate the fabric and provide a deep lustre that goes beyond light reflecting from a surface. The tactility and physical depth of the textile is intensified by the sculptural forms and refractive brilliance of Swarovski crystals. Beehre’s deliberate removal of the frame minimises a sense of boundary and colour billows and roils in clouds within the four sides of the works’ support, threatening to spill out.
The Eyjafjallajökull (2018) silk works employ the same swirling dyes as the velvet paintings to suggest the infernal energy of pyroclastic clouds and volcanic lightning. Here too, the pigments saturate the fabric rather than sit on top of it but without the blurring effect of the pile, they produce a more painterly impression. The flat surfaces are more immediate and the effect of the works less confounding on eye and mind.
Conversely, in a work like Hydrus (2018) the physical depth and dense blackness of the velvet pile creates a sense of falling into an immeasurable space beyond the surface of the work. Crystals appear suspended at a great distance, clustered together in a rich blue void. Although the rational mind realises that these elements sit on the uppermost layer of the artwork, the mind’s eye persists in reading them as stars and constellations. They become galaxies contained in a twinkling point of light.