Hannah Coleman (she/her) is an emerging contemporary artist, curator and poet born in South Africa, who has lived in Australia since 1999. Hannah recently graduated a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts at the University of South Australia. Her current work focuses on cultural identity and diaspora, retrospection and catharsis. Her practice is centred around process and the works are often transmissions of memory and sensation voiced through layers of colour and texture. Inspired by the natural world, her family and her peers, Hannah’s curiosity-driven experimentations and methodologies reject traditional approaches and, instead, are grounded in the flexibility of her materials and the inspiration drawn from them. She plans on refining this practice while beginning her exploration into curatorial endeavours where she intends on cultivating discourse surrounding culturally diverse lived experiences; specifically, people of colour and queer identifying people.
1. Hi Hannah, thank you for joining Verse for this interview. Please introduce yourself to the readers!
Hello darlings! It’s lovely to be catching up with you all. I’m Hannah, an emerging contemporary artist, curator and poet working on Kaurna Land. I graduated from UniSA in 2021 with a Bachelor of Contemporary Art. She’s a Leo, double Aries with a taste for all things chic, shiny and cosmopolitan. This verve seeps into most nooks and crannies of my practice and I’m still in the early days of learning how to hone the potential energy.
2. As an emerging contemporary artist with a handle on a multitude of artistic mediums (from knitting acrylic yarn to glazing earthenware), which practice do you currently resonate most with and why?
Honestly, none of them. I’ve spent the better part of the last two years trying to find something that would stick, and now I’ve got quite a mishmash portfolio of work. I’m often influenced by yummy materials catching my fancy, next thing you know I’m exhibiting an 8m knitted tube, having never really knitted before… this could be the undiagnosed neurodivergence. Suffice to say I never want to knit again. Perhaps, to answer your question, installation might be the true medium for me. Through all of my experiments I’ve found the navigation of a wall or gallery space to be the most exciting part of practice. Process used to be the focus but, as I delve further into curation, responding to and/or working with spaces has become a stimulating and inspiring challenge.
3. Have you always had a linear relationship with art? How did you know you wanted to pursue a Contemporary Arts degree?
Art in a formal sense hasn’t always been a constant for me. Like most people, I underestimated the potential for professional success in this industry and was easily discouraged by the thought of financial obstacles. Initially, I was enrolled in Interior Architecture as a creative compromise, because that could lead to a ‘real job’… right??? Unfortunately, technical drawing, in my opinion, was slightly more enjoyable than being skinned live. I reassessed after failing out of semester one (a grossly privileged thing to do) and enrolled in Contemporary Art. Don’t get me wrong, there were still times where I questioned my pathway but final year was a dream and I’m so happy with where I landed.
4. Your work often revisits themes of cultural identity, diaspora and retrospection, is this an intentional interplay of elements, or rather, are these a subconscious influence? Why are you drawn to these themes when creating?
I’d say it’s more subconscious for sure. Its kind of the whole point of art, isn’t it; retrospection and identity? Specifically, diaspora and cultural identity are two themes I really couldn’t run from anymore. Being a person of colour who’s family migrated when I was a baby, my lived experience just comes with some quirks and I’m at a stage where visual langue is the best way for me to process my frustration, confusion and also joy around what little connection I have to my culture.
5. You have stated that you are inspired by the natural world. In which setting do you feel the catalyst of inspiration most?
The beach holds a special spot in my heart; I spend most days in summer alone somewhere along the coastline. Just being in the sun really. Heliotherapy- the therapeutic use of sunlight has had me enraptured for sometime. I’d say it inspires my poetry more than my art practice nowadays. I’m actually exhibiting a work, Solarium, in June at FELTspace about this exact topic. It’ll be a light installation mimicking the bright intensity of the sun.
6. A huge congratulations on receiving the Project Curator title for the upcoming Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition! Through this opportunity, have you learnt anything new about yourself or the curatorial process? If so, please share!
Thank you so much! It’s been a great learning experience! Being the first project I’ve curated, there’s so much I’ve picked up from admin to logistics. The Helpmann team has given me all the admin support a girl could dream of while still leaving enough independence to find my groove. The install process has been fabulous, working with such an experienced team at ACE lead by Oakey has left me very spoiled and now I have delusions of being able to hang anything perfectly centred and level in under 3 minutes. Patrice Sharkey has been the kindest and most encouraging mentor; she’s definitely been the calm in
I’ve learned how important collaboration and team effort is. As someone who is naturally an independent worker, it has been a challenge learning when to ask for and accept help but this project is so large scale that it’s been a fantastic chance to open up to being a team player.
7. What can we expect from the Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition this year, and where can we find further information?
The beauty of the Helpmann Graduate Exhibition is the variety. You get to see 21 unique practices speaking to each other and the intermingling is just divine. We have stunning emerging graduate voices like Jayda Wilson and Chris Siu conversing with skilled experienced artists returning to study like the talented Jessica Murtagh and Carrie Radzevicius. Expect to see artisanal craftsmanship along with exciting new perspectives.
All information can be found on the Helpmann Academy website or through their Instagram @helpmannacademy. I would heavily encourage everyone to make their way down to ACE to see the show for themselves! The exhibition will be open to the public from April 1st to May 6th.
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