Hanna Jaeun is an artist based in of Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BFA in apparel design from the wonderful Rhode Island School of Design. Later, with the passion of art always within her, she began teaching herself how to paint and soon started a career in fine art. Hanna’s work is a world built from the subconscious in which darkness submerses surroundings of headless females, suspended human hands, and various animals donning crowns and halos. When asked about the significance of Hanna’s exotic cat heads and her taste in the darker world of animation, this is what Hanna had to say:
You mentioned before that the creative minds of Tim Burton and Jim Henson have been influential in your work…particularly the darker tales such as Henson’s The Dark Crystal. The mystical and magical film touched on some dark themes but I felt that the film had a whimsical approach to it as well. Personally, I feel that your work can be seen in a similar manner. Your work feels like it dabs into the dark world of mysticism and rituals yet it does not ignore the whimsicality of certain subjects. What is it about working with darker themes that you find so attractive? And where do your lighter subjects fit in in the spectrum of your world? I would say in my childhood, Tim Burton and Jim Henson first introduced me to this darker yet whimsical world. And later as I grew as an artist, my influences have evolved within the realm of these darker themes. There is something beautiful about such grim and darker subjects. These darker themes seem less serious and more approachable in combination with a little whimsicality. We often mask our true emotions when we are going through a difficult time. We make ourselves put on a face for the public. Because it is more socially accepted to be happy and positive, it is easier when these darker themes are met with a little humor.
Some of your work features headless women with looming feline heads over them. The feline heads are not attached to the bodies but create an interesting visual effect as if they are. It is as if the feline heads represent the emotional state of your subjects. Would you open up about the symbolic references that your exotic cats signify? The heads express the emotional state of my subjects. The human faces represent human emotions. They are hiding behind a mask, which is represented the animal head. The heads are large because emotions are so large and overpowering. Yet they cannot express themselves. I mainly use big cat heads. Big cats represent power and strength. The human bodies have these powerful big cat heads. But this is only a facade because their expressions are usually sorrowful and vulnerable to deeper emotions.
Your current piece, “In Shallow Waters,” will be part of your exhibition at Arch Enemy Arts. The piece features a brown bear covered with white mice. What I find interesting about this piece is the arms that emerge from the dark depths of a body of water to embrace one of the mice. There is something very endearing about this part of the painting. Tell us about the intentions behind this piece and how it ties into your concept for the rest of your exhibition. Many of my subjects are being lifted out of or wading in a body of water. When I think of the subconscious I think of water. Perhaps our emotions are fluid like water. The concept behind my exhibition is our short time in the living world and our journey to the other side. The mice and flies represent of the end of life. The mice in “In Shallow Waters” are comforting the bear, and she is holding one for comfort. In all the pieces for my exhibition, they are preparing to welcome the other world. They are accompanied by representations of this, such as the mice or grim reaper, but they are not fearful characters. They are sympathetic and calming.
Hanna Jaeun has exhibited at Baker Hesseldenz Fine Art in Tucson, Arizona, Gristle Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and later this month at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles, California. Hanna will exhibit her solo show “On Borrowed Time’ at Arch Enemy Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Friday, March 4, 2016. If you would like to view more of Hanna’s work, visit her website or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.