Hannah Bertram’s practice investigates the ambiguity of value, the transformation of worthless materials and the passing of time.
Throughout Bertram’s practice the complex position of Ornament – that simultaneously adds value and is functionally superfluous – is used to transform banal materials into temporary installations. By combining decorative motifs with worthless materials, these works offer an alternative experience of preciousness in which value is found not in the perpetuity and richness of ornamented objects, but within subtlety of transient experience.
Many projects and installations often explore the passing of time. Whilst it might be claimed that all art is ephemeral, as all works are subject to deterioration whether substantial or microscopic, Bertram’s work is intentionally designed to decay, deteriorate and frequently exists in fluid states of becoming and disappearing. Developing works which are fleeting in duration, and whose content is dependent on its temporal nature, allows me to investigate the tension between a desire for permanence and the inevitability of impermanence.
Time is also employed by generating, locating and employing dust and ash as principle materials. Dust, seen as a material which settles as a patina over our domestic existence quietly marking the passing of time, or alternatively is removed from these spaces creating an illusion of timelessness, is salvaged from the overlooked remains of life in motion. The physical properties of dust incorporate the final deterioration of all matter, from the microscopic debris of our built environment to grains of sand and soil caught in weather, from specs of burnt meteorites to skin and hair unknowingly shed from our bodies. Intrinsic to the production of dust is time, it evolves or devolves over days, years and centuries, accumulating slowly and quietly. Ash, whilst similar in its make up comes about at a greater, more dramatic speed. Like dust through, ash is the final trace, the last remains of something which has passed, of the remains of matter which has been transformed towards nothing.