Building Block

Building Block

Hanna Hur

Photography by Michael Kennedy Costa

Hanna Hur is an artist living in Los Angeles. Like the rest of the world right now, she is quarantining herself while a pandemic is making its way around the globe. But while time moves differently for many of us currently, on most days Hanna is where she always is—by herself, making work.

Hanna’s work can be described as gently hypnotic, meditative, and perhaps perfectly accustomed to the idea of slow growth. One of our favorite pieces of hers is a flexible grid of copper chainmaille that she has been expanding on for the last 6 years where each loop is individually made by hand with pliers and a dowel. Like many artists who are well-acclimated to the demands of solitude and self-reflection, it’s a productive and even positive time for Hanna right now. Recently, we were happy to be able to speak to her via email about how her experiences have readied—and likely strengthened—her for our current moment.

We were introduced to your work at UCLA open studios a couple years ago and were instantly enamored. The chainmaille piece made an especially lasting impression. Can you tell us more about it? Is there a definitive finish date or end to the piece?

I'm glad it made a lasting impression. I'm not sure which chainmaille work you saw, but I have three primary forms that I'm continuously working on. There's a dense rectangular form, a spider, and a grid. They all have the same title Mother and are ongoing with no end date. They're in constant flux, always growing, malleable, and sometimes combined with one another to make new forms. The dense rectangular piece is the oldest, I started it in 2014. I hope one day it will span across an entire floor. You can see how the copper has oxidized and aged over time most clearly in this work. (Image below courtesy of Bel Ami)

The world has recently been flipped upside down. How are you feeling and how has this very unique moment in time affected your work or how you view it?

I've been feeling generally really comfortable in isolation. My personality and work prefer solitude and so there's a feeling of relief and spaciousness that I've been appreciating. Of course I have ups and downs though, so I'm riding that wave.  I've been making drawings at home. It's been nice to have focused time to develop that aspect of my practice. I've always experienced making my work as necessary for my well being and I feel that even more so now. I feel lucky to feel this way too.

You have an identical twin sister who is also an artist! As sisters as well, we are tied to one another on so many levels. How has having a twin shaped your identity as an artist?

I love that Building Block was created by sisters. My identity is twinned and mirrored and I think my work reflects this. I often image things twice or as doubles. I see the repetition in my work as an endless doubling really. My twin Laurie Kang is an incredible artist. I've used a form that originated in her work, Moonbather, in my work for several years now. A little piece of my chainmaille showed up in one of her installations last year too. This kind of swapping has been a nice way to make work individually and together. 

What do you currently believe in?
The value of focus.

What do you no longer believe in?
Maybe cynicism.

What do you want to believe in?
I have a tricky relationship with belief. I think some of the practices and systems of knowledge I'm engaged in seem to require a belief in them -- like shamanism, astrology, tarot, and other forms of divination. Over the last few years, it started feeling false to enter into these practices through belief. Or it seemed to prioritize my opinion too much -- as if they hinged on my believing in them or not. It feels more potent now to engage in them through watching how they work without any belief one way or the other. This isn't to say that I'm not invested in them, I engage in them with seriousness and specificity. On a more general level, I'm curious about an experience of myself and the world without beliefs. Not in a nihilistic way, but in a potentially positive way. Like how would we live and interact with one another without fixed concepts, categories, certainties etc. 

Fixed identities have never sat well with us either--we are much more responsive to process and exploration rather than definitions, which in nature can feel closed or finite. Is there an experience in your upbringing that has contributed to your connection to said forms of divination?

Yes, totally. I think this is why I like grids so much. The rigid structure they propose and the ensuing opportunity they offer for interrupting said structure. I was raised in a strict protestant Christian household. The faith that we practiced was very dynamic and charismatic with a real emphasis on relating with the Holy Spirit. In this way, I had early experiences and observations of communing with invisible forces, being wildly affected and transformed by them. This created a readiness for non-physical related thinking and being.

Can you tell us what’s inside your bag?

Wallet, a thermos of hot water, a little toiletry bag, bleach spray, hand sanitizer, a face mask, and paper towels.

What are some things to look forward to?

The Jupiter Saturn conjunction in December!

Hanna owns the Large Line Tote in Vegetable Tanned leather. You can see more of her work here.

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