Within her first solo show MIASMA, Absalom explores the implications of a future climate apocalypse – at this moment in time an impending and inevitable event due to the damaging effects on the environment by humanity. Scientific reports alongside panic coverage from mass media outlets have sparked a rise in ‘ecological anxiety’ – whether individuals have read The Book of Revelations or not, mass psychological panic is culturally understood. Echoes of the ‘end times’ have reverberated in every community throughout culture and history. Every generation fears that it may be the last, and our current cataclysmic nightmares of upcoming plagues, droughts, floods, wars or omens are nothing new.
Absalom’s work interweaves this chronic fear of environmental doom with the fatalistic dogma found in religious writing. Symbolism and iconography, reflecting Mediaeval and Renaissance paintings, are transmogrified into a style lending from classical science-fiction designs, thus merging together the ancient and the yet-to-come.
MIASMA spans numerous mediums including oil paintings, woodcut drawings, and collages which began conception in 2019, each piece becoming increasingly relevant to present-day events as the years and project developed. The characters present within the artworks are without identity, operating as potential apocalyptic prophets or Dickensian ghosts, often bearing warning upon their audience without the judgement of didacticism. These characters can be viewed as figureheads, icons, representative rather than reflective, and are anachronistic within every setting you place them in. The void which these figures represent, alongside the manipulative form of flatness and surrealism catalyses the Freudian idea of the uncanny in the mind of the viewer – images and ideas which are incredibly ingrained into society’s collective mindset. These images should feel homely (heimlich) and yet they simultaneously instil discomfort and dread (unheimlich).
Through Absalom’s artwork and academic writing, she has discovered that the fetishisation of the uncanny, the grotesque, and suffering are elements fundamental to the Christian faith and so an enjoyment towards the horror depicted in the paintings presented is allowed and even actively encouraged.
Hannah Absalom is a 2020 graduate of Painting & Printmaking at The Glasgow School of Art, soon embarking on an MFA at Central Saint Martins. Though originally from Northumberland, she is currently based in Glasgow, working as a practising artist. Absalom has also studied at The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, Israel, and over the last few years has taken part in several film festivals and exhibited internationally.
Absalom’s work primarily focuses on concepts surrounding religion and mysticism through a contemporary interpretation of ancient iconography, ritual and folklore. Aside from narrative tales, Absalom also explores collective thought, in which certain symbols, colours, creatures and bodily gestures invoke shared responses across time and culture. In addition to exploring the effect of religion upon traditional art forms, this investigation expands into a reflection of Judeo-Christianity on the aesthetics of the grotesque and horror, specifically in 20th century cinema. Absalom aims to present a classical yet surrealist interpretation of dystopias and apocalypses within the framework of contemporary concerns such as the political, societal, and environmental.