The first thought I had when looking at Hanna Brody’s recent watercolour portraits was of the the innate curiosity and generosity that is required in order to capture such thoughtful and ephemeral impressions of another individual. Already a talented portraitist, these works reveal even more clearly the Brody’s concern to capture temporal impermanence through the shifting emotional states of her subjects.
Each double portrait is both an individual representation and a mirror of that representation – a painting and a monoprint taken from the painting. Typically an oil painter, Brody rendered these in water medium which dries so quickly you can’t help but sense the immediacy of the marks and the swiftness required to make the print before the surface is sealed. There is a transparency and lightness to the application of paint that belies the emotional depth she manages to convey in the capturing of transitional and thoughtful expressions.
In these works you have an awareness that the artist is deeply interested and invested in the observation of her subjects. Much traditional portraiture from observation requires the sitter to remain still for a long period of time which tends to result in static postures and facial expressions. Brody made these works from sketches taken observing the subjects through the various means possible in our current state of pandemic lockdown. Candid screenshots from video chats with her intimate circle undoubtedly influenced the use of multiple images, both in these monoprinted works and in other new studies that utilize a timelapse-like repetition of her subject.
Despite the physical distance and the technological barriers to social connection in place during the making, these works carry an overwhelming sense of tenderness and empathy. The mirror effect of the monoprinting feels particularly significant. In psychotherapy, mirroring is a technique used to validate experience and reflect the self back to a subject as a gateway to further discovery*. In these portraits, mirroring is offered as a way of observing and reflecting inner states on the path to deeper interpersonal understanding for the artist, the viewer, and for the sitter themselves.
About the artist: Hanna Brody is a Brooklyn based artist. Her art mirrors the emotional states of the people she’s surrounded by and temporal impermanence. Find her work at hannabrody.com and follow @hbrods for more.
About the writer: Jennifer Mawby is a contemporary artist and sometimes curator and art writer with a focus on projects for artists using accessible language. Jennifer is the co-founder and director of Vantage Art Projects. Her work can be found here: www.jjtmstudio.com and on Instagram: @jenniferjeanmawby.
*Carpendale, M. (2006). Kutenai Art Therapy Institute Manual. (pp. 45-60).