Hammond’s recent drawings vibrate with a low, almost audible hum, as if the insects, plants and animals in her delicately rendered compositions might take flight from the page or, if accidentally touched, disperse like pollen on the fingers. Her images, simultaneously alive and ethereal, resonate as memories do: ungraspable but vividly real. The work in this exhibition, which includes the new series of drawings, as well as a sculptural paper installation and a multi-paneled artist’s book, revolves around the theme of memory, and, more specifically, remembrance: it is a memorial of sorts, drawn from Hammond’s personal and emotional narrative.
Hammond worked on a majority of the drawings this past summer, while at the Cill Rialiag Artist’s Residency in Ballinskelligs, Ireland. Remote, introspective, and dotted with ancient stone structures, the area has a rich history of traditional Irish storytelling. Many stories incorporate local superstitions, referred to as piseóg. Hammond has long been fascinated by the folklore and oral tradition of other cultures, especially by those fables which blur distinctions between fantasy and reality. In all of her work, there is play between the material and the immaterial, the physical and the spiritual: the dichotomy between what is seen and the sensation it provokes. One piseóg, told to Hammond during her stay, especially resonated: upon death, one’s soul takes residence in the body of a hare so that it might attend to unfinished business or visit loved ones. (Because of this, hares are protected creatures, and the Irish are not allowed to kill them.) Hammond’s daily walks in the countryside were often punctuated by sightings of these hares. Silent and unmoving, they fearlessly returned her gaze, penetrating the hushed gulf between human and animal, as if accessing a timeless, primordial realm. Hammond’s drawings convey a similar feeling: her hares, uncannily corporeal, seem witness to the brief manifestation of passing memory. Birds and bouquets are testaments to those she has lost; earlier poppy-colored drawings referenced the death of her mother, and the new ones, in sky-blue ink and silvery pencil, are dedicated to her father. For Hammond, the work becomes talismanic, her imagery like visual memory.