With the use of vibrant colors and cartoon-inspired imagery, Audrey Hansa tells the stories of women.
Beginning at a young age, the University of Wisconsin student used art as an outlet to express herself and her emotions. She recalls using comics as a means to superimpose herself and to persuade or convince her parents to get certain things in return.
Hansa has a distinct interest in using femme-identifying or female-bodied individuals as her subjects or protagonists in her works, stemming back to those comics from her childhood.
“Ever since I was little, I always drew women. I think some of it was also, you know, me drawing myself,” said Hansa. “As someone who identifies as a woman, I feel like going about this world and trying to understand it and your relationship to other people and institutions as a woman.”
It wasn’t until high school, however, that she began painting seriously. There, she learned basic skills in a more naturalistic style through painting still life and realistic images.
While necessary for building a foundation for further artistic expression, she felt as though this focus on naturalistic artwork was a bit confining. So as soon as she had the opportunity to choose her own style in college, she decided to go in an entirely different direction.
“In the back of my head, I was thinking I had this opportunity instead of drawing still lifes all the time, now I can paint whatever I want,” Hansa said. “It doesn’t even need to be real. So I just kind of ran with it, and was like ‘I want to be anything but naturalistic.’ So super, super saturated colors and then a focus on female-identified people or female-bodied people.”
In order to find her own unique style, Hansa returned to her roots. From a young age, she said she was always drawn to the overdramatic facial expressions and colors in popular cartoons from her childhood.
Growing up, her father, who worked in advertising for Leo Burnett, would frequently bring home concept books from DreamWorks for her to peruse. Hansa credits the collective artists and imagery of the concept books, depicting the same character in multiple different ways, for her outlook on life and artistic creation.
“They’re so free. There’s such a free quality to it,” said Hansa. “How can I get to that head space where there are no rules? They’re just so playful, and that’s what makes them so sophisticated. You don’t have to be so pretentious and serious to still be sophisticated with your work.”
Hansa also credits other artists for inspiration, including Tim Biskup, a Los Angeles-based artist whose use of numerous mediums, colors and abstract concepts can be seen reflected in Hansa’s colorful works, and Amanda Visell, a Riot Grrrl-inspired artist whose use of stylization among high art techniques appeals to Hansa.
These principles can be seen reflected in one of her most recent works that depict a female superhero reminiscent of 1960’s “Batman era” and atomic/space age vibes.
“I wanted the protagonist to just be this entirely badass, ‘she will kick your ass’ lady,” said Hansa. “I kept telling my classmates it’s a ‘punch-in-the-face’ pink. It’s not quite neon — I mixed a darker color into it — but it’s like so bright, it kind of hurts.”
Nowadays, Hansa’s unique works and playful skill set consisting of drawing, painting and screen-printing have landed her in numerous galleries, shows and exhibitions, her most recent being the upcoming Advanced Painting Workshop Show and Screen Printing Show.
Hansa also recently had three pieces featured in the Memorial Union art gallery: one titled “Pins and Needles” that depicts an arm with rainbow-colored pins stuck into it, a screenprint entitled “Dunce” inspired by the simplicity and sophisticated charm of old matchbook designs and the distinct visual of a dunce cap planted on a woman’s head, and a piece featuring a young female musician, entitled Vic, named after the Vic Theatre in Chicago.
“I wanted [a name] that kind of sounds like a girl’s name,” said Hansa. “I don’t want to call her like ‘Lincoln Hall’.”
Hansa has many artistic goals for the future, including finding a way to integrate her two greatest loves, art and music, into a common form. While she is still brainstorming ways to do this in a new way, she remains hopeful that this goal can be met through working with other talented artists and musicians.
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While at times Hansa hopes to integrate a more complex message on the female identity or experience through her works, Hansa also just thoroughly enjoys drawing the female form.
“I just love drawing the crazy facial expressions, and the colors, and the hairstyles, and the way people carry themselves. That’s just so cool. They’re just more fun to draw, just the shapes of different bodies too.”
Through the use of interesting, outlandish femme-characters, clean line work and unnatural color schemes and images, Hansa creates works and stories that are not only sophisticated but playful as well.
“I like telling stories, and I feel like since I have a connection as a woman, I feel like I come from a legit place telling these characters’ stories.”