We sit down with Hannah Thomas to discuss her life as an artist and learn how she works!
AR: What was the driving force behind your choice to become an artist?
A lack of other options! Really, although the exact nature of my practice has changed over the years, most basically in moving from photography to painting, there was no other career path that held any interest for me, they all meant compromise and they all meant pretending to be someone else for the duration of the work day. I am really useless at that and I found it exhausting to do and truly pointless. The highs I get from working at my art are dramatic and there isn’t much to compare to finishing a painting I’m really pleased with and standing back to look at it, knowing how much work went into it and that there isn’t another one like it anywhere.
AR: Does your artwork have a message? Political, social etc
I make a point of not having a political or social message in my work. I think it gives work a finite life if it is too mired in a particular cause or an artist has a particular axe to grind politically. Also inevitably it alienates a section of the audience. I am far more interested in existential themes, things that everyone feels but not everyone can express or visualise and I only ever make the work with myself in mind. It is my emotional energy driving the work, my entirely subjective view on life and the world and people will either engage with it or not.
AR: Do you keep tabs on art trends or are you all about doing your own thing?
I don’t pay any attention on the whole, but strangely I do find there is a sort of synchronicity sometimes that is entirely out of my hands, I will organically experiment with something only to find a month or so later that it had already been done elsewhere or it is a growing trend or technique. I think that’s inevitable with the visual over-saturation we all endure and the fact that at this point, nothing is new, it’s all been done somewhere before. The trick is not to care and to make it your own and give it a new life.
AR: What/who are your biggest influences? Artists or otherwise
Music and cinema are bigger influences on me than other visual artists, also literature. Phrases, the mood of a song, the look of a film have a subconscious effect on me, but I don’t consciously reference anything like that, when planning my work I do often have a philosophical strand, a few quotes, ideas but I am not channeling anything in particular. It’s more diffuse than that, if I am working to music it can affect how I apply the paint, the palette I pick. I recently did a series of works on paper that came about in the way they did purely because I was listening to Miles Davis on a loop all day. So, I called that series Many Miles in acknowledgement of the influence.
AR: How has your life and experiences influenced your artwork?
I think my fascination with chaos and flux and the theories of Absurdism I explore come from the fact that I have always been fairly rootless. I spent the first 10 years of my life abroad in various places as a result of my dad’s job. Then I was always moving around between cities, jobs, etc. The first place I ever felt attached to and really at home was London and although I don’t currently live there anymore, it remains my spiritual home. I have always felt a bit of a journeyman and I love it. I believe it’s much easier to feel free and have a sense of perspective on life if you are not holding on too tight to things, don’t get stuck in one place for too long.
AR: How have you developed your style?
It’s come along very fast, developed quite radically really and utterly instinctively. Basically it’s just been a process of trial and error, picking up techniques and ideas along the way, constantly experimenting and not being afraid of failure, because there’s always plenty of that. I feel much more confident and in full possession of my artistic intention now, even if the specifics of every painting are often a mystery to me until after I’ve finished, I know what feels authentically me when I’m working and only that will do.
AR: What’s your favourite piece in your portfolio and why?
Probably Netherworld weirdly, as it was such an arduous work to finish, had so many incarnations. It’s not one that I enter for competitions or anything as it’s a bit of a dark old behemoth of a piece, but I love it for that reason. It has such substance as a result of the struggles I had with it. Of my old pieces I love the Rebel Visions work because it was what started me on the road to painting and was a total experiment and genuinely unique as far as process went, as far as I knew anyway.
AR: What is your workspace set up like? Are you in a studio/do you work alongside others/are you at a laptop or freehand
My studio space is in flux right now, I have been working out of temporary spaces, all fairly small and unsuitable during the pandemic, so I am impatient for the spring when I hope to be able to relocate to another space. It will likely be a home studio as any other kind is hard to find in my area, but I am determined to get a space with good light and some clear white walls to work on and most of all some floor space. I have my desk in the room as well with my computer, as I am always flitting back and forth, breaking up my day into painting and admin work. If I had a really big studio then I would ideally probably have them in separate rooms as it can be distracting.