In Hannah Rowan’s lab-like studio, human-made objects merge with organic matter.
An aquarium, a magnifying glass, a fridge, stones, salts, sand, water, ice, ropes, chains, fans… artist Hannah Rowan’s ACME studio in Stockwell feels like a laboratory. I meet the artist in mid-winter, prior to her residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. It’s a cold day and it probably doesn’t help that the artist has all of this ice literally hanging around. The artist has a very studio based practise, and also a highly material practise, which makes having a studio space really essential to developing her work. However, she also has a movable and research based approach, which has probably come about from frequently moving studios or having temporary ones through residencies. In fact, this one is a sublet until June, and the artist is not sure where her studio will be after that. The space is divided between the desk area and the making section. It is a place where many things happen at once: emails, research, ordering materials, casting or experimenting. The desk area has similar qualities to that of a museum-like cabinet of curiosities display, where one can observe a myriad of elements that the artist has collected over time, and these may come into function in her works at the opportune moment. The making section is composed of a set-like scenario where a multitude of materials form connections through water processes: there is a bucket containing a portion of clay on the floor, melting between a strainer, as water pumps through it. One can also find a transparent vitrine in the space, in which bulbs illuminate a soft leaking process where ice is slowly unfreezing. An x-ray lyes around the floor and a 3D scanned rock hangs from the ceiling from latex strands. Examined, pumped, altered, x-rayed, dissected and displayed elements. It seems to me as this process could be confused with that of a medical experiment, autopsy, or forensic investigation. “The studio enables me to have a space where I can centre my thoughts and establishing an atmosphere that is calm and meditative is crucial to that, wherever that may be.” says Hannah, who wears a Moroccan ring depicting an ancient calculator of symbols. However, the place is both calming and unnerving – partly due to the constant water drippings, which made me remarkably aware of time passing. The artist shows me around her books and the reference images on the wall. She confesses drinking a lot of coffee in the morning and usually listening to familiar music when she works, so it isn’t too distracting. By the time I leave the studio, the clay’s material state had already shifted from solid to liquid.