Hannah Nowlan

Words: Manuela Millan
Photos: Suzi Appel

We are thrilled to finally feature the amazingly talented young artist Hannah Nowlan. We first came across her work from her previous solo exhibition Myths, Moons and Mountains in 2017. Hannah’s current exhibition Cerberus is an exploration of her environment and landscape in her iconic, rich and evocative style. 

We hope you enjoy this Q&A and a selection of some of our favourite works from Cerberus. Make sure to check out the full exhibition which opens on the 16th of August at Modern Times in Collingwood.

I’m particularly drawn to coastal landscapes, having grown up close to the water. My influences can be quite beautifully described in the Japanese aesthetic of “Yūgen”— a mood or sensibility in which one feels that the universe as a whole possesses a mysterious, elusive, but real, beauty.
— hannah nowlan

MM: When did you start painting, how did you end up where you are now?

HN: I started painting once I graduated from University. After specialising in Drawing and Printmaking at The Victorian College of Arts, I knew that without access to the materials and equipment required to sustain a printmaking practice from home, I would need to pick up a paintbrush!

I also understood that if I was going to take myself seriously as an Artist (and expect others too as well) then I couldn’t be half-hearted about it. I dived into working full-time as a practicing artist, with no room for doubt. I’ve been painting ever since and I'm not looking back!


MM: What was your childhood like? Did you grow up in a creative household? 

HN: My childhood was super creative! With a Father is a carpenter, woodwork teacher and general jack-of-all-trades and my Mother is an avid dress-maker, textiles teacher and knitter! It was hard not to get the creative bug! Because of my parents and their traditional methods of creating, I developed a really strong appreciation for both materiality and craftsmanship. 

I’ve always been drawn to making things myself instead of buying them which intern means learning the skills needed to do so, whether it be sewing, painting, leather work, ceramics, woodwork or photography, I'm always trying my hand at new skills. Also, being the baby of the family (with six older siblings), I was always surrounded by creativity, success and the intuition of following your dreams, no matter what avenue it may be. I think this notion was drummed into me from an early age.


MM: What is your creative process like / how often do you feel inspired?

HN: Authentically showing up to the studio every day is important, whether I feel like being there or not. I feel that the routine of simply showing up and getting work done allows for my creativity to flow more organically. I’ve also come to realise over the last few years that the best inspiration often comes from looking within rather than external sources. It’s often delving closely into my personal landscape and attempting channel this, no matter what energy it imbues can equate into my best work.

My process always starts with diving into mythology and allegory, whether it be personal or symbolic, I research pictorial language to convey these ideas. I then begin drawing and planning compositions from photos and memories. I usually develop a loose colour palette before I get swept away by the intuitive process of painting. In many ways I feel like I need to surrender to the painting at this stage and follow its lead rather than forcing it.


MM: What’s your favourite medium to work with?

HN: I’m currently indulging in the richness of Oil on Linen. Appreciating the quality of my materials such as the transparent primed raw Italian Linen that I work with is very important. So too is understanding the value of the Linen in both its natural and physically constructed/painterly states, it can be a beautiful comparison. 
Working with Oils as my preferred medium allows me to create layers of transparency and many finishes to create subtle variances and textures of tone. There is so much subtly that can only be experienced when you view my paintings in the flesh ––I love drawing on this concept.


MM: What can't you live without? 

HN: The Beach!


MM: Who/What are you most influenced by?

HN: I believe I’m mostly influenced by nature and I’m particularly drawn to coastal landscapes, having grown up close to the water. My influences can be quite beautifully described in the Japanese aesthetic of “Yūgen”— a mood or sensibility in which one feels that the universe as a whole possesses a mysterious, elusive, but real, beauty. This totally resonates with the way I see.


MM: Can you recommend a good read / good playlist?

HN: I’m really diggin’ listening to Cold War Kids in the studio at the moment!


MM: What is the first thing you do in the morning?

HN: Every morning I make myself and my dad a freshly brewed coffee before we start work, it’s definitely my daily ritual.


MM: What are your hopes for the next few years?  

HN: My hopes are to travel more of our beautiful country, Australia, and hopefully develop and expand my practice further. I’d love to dive into another ‘Artist In Residence’ program somewhere in the Australian out-back this time, even if it is self-guided.


MM: Can you recommend a coffee place and a restaurant in Melbourne?

HN: My go-to coffee spot is The Diplomat, Highett and my favourite Italian restaurant is Rococo, St Kilda.

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Hannah Nowlan

Open Wednesday 8 of August 2018 at 10am
To register for Pre-sales contact

6-8pm, Thursday 16 August 2018

Exhibition Dates
16 – 29 August 2018

Exhibition Partners

Modern Times Gallery
311 Smith St,
Fitzroy VIC 3065

View the event details on Facebook.