Interview by Creative Assistant Gemmie
Hannah Mcdonald on Artist in Residency, Whitstable and Roman Myths
Hannah Mcdonald is a writer and illustrator. Over a year Hannah has worked with The Horsebridge as an Artist in Residence to create work influenced by Whitstable and the changing seasons. Her work will be exhibited at both galleries in February 2024 at The Horsebridge and this is some thoughts from Hannah on her reflection of the Artist in Residency before the exhibition.
Could you explain the concept and inspiration for your current project?
My main inspiration for this work is Whitstable itself. Particularly when its off season in winter and early spring. My illustration work in general is often inspired by the subtle seasonal changes, such as different energies and moods that can be felt during each of the four seasons. With this project I wanted to explore that atmospheric, gothic, slightly spooky vibe that can be felt during the darker part of the year and combine with a ghostly and tragic story element.
Whilst on my first visit of the Artist in Residency program, as well as taking photographs and sketches I researched the local history - in particular the Roman history and that led to an exploration into Roman mythology. This led me to reading the myth of Salacia, the Roman Goddess of Saltwater. Neptune, the God of The Sea, chose Salacia to be his wife but she decides to run away and hide from him. Neptune in turn sends a dolphin to persuade her to return to marry him. To hear this tale in a contemporary setting feels quite unsettling and brings up themes on female autonomy and freedom and felt something interesting to explore in my work.
My exhibition will focus on a reimagining of the myth of Salacia, exploring tragic and thriller-like aspects whilst set in a gothic style Whitstable.
How has Whitstable and Amsterdam inspired you?
My current project is inspired by Whitstable but from a broader perspective Whitstable and Amsterdam both inspire me to look around more as both places encourage an outdoor lifestyle. In the winter in Amsterdam, people still cycle around the city even when it's freezing and snowing, and with the first sign of sunlight people are out on their boats on the canals - this was something that really stood out to me after moving from London, where it's easy to almost miss the seasonal changes as it felt like I was inside so much more - especially with the long commutes on public transport. Both Whitstable and Amsterdam inspire me to be an observer of the natural world, interacting with the seasons and watching how nature changes - plus of course both places are heavily influenced by the water and air around them. I really like that both Whitstable and Amsterdam feel authentic and true to their core.
What mediums and techniques do you use?
I mostly use ink pens in watercolour in my work. For this exhibition, which will be my first solo exhibition, I am exploring textures more so experimenting with coloured pencils more and paper manipulation.
The work will use my book illustration background and I will be telling this tale through physical ‘pages’ as though a book has exploded across the gallery space, so the audience instead of sitting reading and viewing these illustrations stationary as reading a book - will instead walk around the story and the space.
How has your time been at The Horsebridge?
My time at The Horsebridge has been so inspiring and such an incredible experience I am so grateful for. The Horsebridge team has been very warm and welcoming, and made me feel very supported throughout this residency. I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity. The gallery space itself is such a great space - and although a little daunting - I feel very excited about showing my work on its walls.
Could you tell me about your exhibition?
The exhibition will be a play on illustrations, text elements and sculptural installation. I want the exhibition to be like reading a story but presented in a different way.
How have you found the Artist in Residency has helped you creatively?
The Artist in Residency has allowed me to go deep into a single project and have an opportunity to research and explore themes and let ideas grow organically. Whitstable is very personal to me and it is a dream come true to be able to do an Artist in Residency at The Horsebridge and to create a body of work inspired by one of my favourite places. I feel my style has evolved during this year and pushed me to explore more mature themes and styles than perhaps my previous work. It's been so nice to get to know the team at The Horsebridge and I have really enjoyed being part of the community each time I visit and for this I am so grateful. Hopefully I will find a way to sneak back in :)