Crisp, candid and even creepy, Hannah Pembroke captures Australia’s colder side on canvas

Hailing from the luscious Snowy Mountains, Hannah Pembroke is a breath of crisp, fresh air welcomed into the local art scene. Her abstract oil paintings bring life to people and places around her, finding  inspiration from collages, pictures she has taken or still lifes.

Having recently returned from a trip to Canada, Hannah is freshening up the city before her upcoming collaborative exhibition Intrinsic Nature.

hannah pembroke foggy weather
Foggy Weather, 2015, oil on canvas, 90 x 120cm

Cold yet unfathomably expressive, Hannah Pembroke brings an oft overlooked side of the Australian landscape to life in her daunting artwork.

HAPPY: You were recently in Canada. How do you practice your art when you’re abroad?

HANNAH: I keep it simple and take a few journals and nice drawing pens and pencils. I usually just draw things around me but mostly I write. The itch to get back to my studio returns pretty quickly! But a break from the oils is nice.

HAPPY: Did you draw much inspiration from your surroundings over there?

HANNAH: Definitely, every trip brings new light to a body of work. I remember being pretty obsessed with an old railway track within the Rockies. The idea of palimpsest really took meaning to me especially as a young traveller. This idea of a ‘tourist’ journeying or taking a trip to a new destination has, I believe, become superficial. There are so many layers of history and so much to learn about a new place, but our western approach tends to bypass the true essence of a destination (as soon it has been capitalised!) These train tracks remind me of this…

hannah pembroke
Still Steel, 2015, oil on canvas, 147 x 100cm

HAPPY: What have you been doing with yourself since you returned from travelling?

HANNAH: I set up a studio in my parent’s garage back home in Jindabyne. After working the winter season, I really got in the swing of painting most days. I started multiple bodies of work, including a series of oil landscapes, portraits. I also picked up watercolour painting and pen drawing when I didn’t want to get to messy!

HAPPY: What is Hannah Pembroke’s definition of art?

HANNAH: I think in the contemporary, people see art as more of a physical object or a pretty design. However, art and artists for me stand out as a craftsmen and women, people who live day in day out with a creative outlook. I believe art can come in any shape and form, although it has to develop through a philosophy. For me, it’s the ability to capture an idea or something you’ve seen and find new or hidden meaning in it.

hannah pembroke
Untitled (Figure by the lake), 2015, oil on canvas, 123 x 91cm

HAPPY: What are you working on at the moment?

HANNAH: I am working on a waterfall painting that was inspired by some incredible waterfalls near the Yarrangobilly caves, in the middle of the national parks. My good friend and I hiked through a river with a large canvas, as well as camera equipment and a paint box, to get to the spot. It was well worth it!

HAPPY: Do you go out into the National Parks a lot?

HANNAH: Yeah, quite a bit recently. My neighbour Robbie Duncan (also practising art through his photography) got me into National Park hikes when I arrived back in Jindabyne. We went exploring a lot over the summer.

Magic Maker #pencil #pencildrawing #hands #camera #antique #creative #freecreative

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HAPPY: How do you find your inspiration?

HANNAH: I believe there is inspiration in everything around us. It’s how you see things and interpret something. It could be an idea, something you’ve heard, or emotions you feel and I build from that. I find I begin to start a new project midway through another and each series kind of leads on from the last one. Some days are tough, when I have to constantly edit my work without any other opinion. That part has certainly been a learning curve, living back in the mountains isolated from any artistic institutions. But maybe it has helped?

HAPPY: How do you edit your work?

HANNAH: I am highly critical of anything I do. It is rare that I am completely satisfied with a painting. I spend a lot of time thinking. Always thinking. During a studio day I spend time looking at pictures I have taken of the relevant subject and don’t pick up paint until I am completely sure what needs editing or fixing (or added or blended or pushed back) And it has to be an immediate visual response and reaction to the work. If I am struggling to see the problems in the painting and the balance is off I put it away and start on another until it’s clear. Fresh eyes really help. I have a piano and few guitars that’ll go between long days in studio. It helps to break up the day.

hannah pembroke
It’s like a ghost town III, 2015, oil on canvas, 60 x 60cm

HAPPY: Can you tell us about the exhibition you have organised?

HANNAH: Intrinsic Nature came about as I just wanted to make a body of work and get some of my art out there. However, when I reconnected with some friends from Jindabyne, I honestly became so passionate about their art and how much raw talent they had. Most of them had never had the opportunity to exhibit their work either, so I was able to recruit them to be a part of the project. Dodging the limitations that can stop artists from finding an affordable space in the city became a crucial part of the project. It has been a process of bending the rules to get the exhibition to where it is.

Shadow, lamps and lights

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HAPPY: Bending the rules how?

HANNAH: This project has been a self-motivated exercise. Once I realised how exclusive the art scene can be, and that galleries can take a 40 percent commission of shows, I wanted to avoid the gallery market and find an alternative space to transform into our own gallery. Something like a creative hub or space that the public can have access too. I believe that issues such as expensive real estate and commercial businesses are defining the market and practice of art. I wanted to make sure the core of this project was making sure to find a space for the creative and the public to congregate freely.

hannah pembroke
Real or Imagination, 2015, oil on canvas, 105 x 120cm

HAPPY: It sounds like you are trying to create a more casual experience for people who might not usually experience art. Is this the vibe your trying to give off?

HANNAH: There has never been an expectation on how this exhibition will turn out. It has certainly gathered momentum more than I thought. There are art exhibitions happening all the time displaying new and exciting art. I guess what is happening with Intrinsic Nature is that it has developed and been organised similar to the process in my own practise in painting. There was never an outline or proposal that we had to do, no rules, no pressure I guess. So yes it will be more of a relaxed vibe. We are going to have things like a new band playing and a drawing corner! We like to keep things unofficial and a little bit quirky.

Intrinsic Nature opens tonight. Find all the details on the Facebook event.