Father and daughter power artists Robert and Tsering Hannaford alight in South Australian landscape home
Competing self-portraits aside, South Australian artists Robert and Tsering Hannaford – the Archibald Prize’s first father and daughter finalists – are fundamentally people of place.
“I’m in love with the South Australian landscape,” confesses Tsering, a full-time artist since 2012. “Kangaroo Island is an incredible place, also the Mid-North and Flinders Ranges, where Dad lives [and] where I spent a lot of my childhood. You’re in such an ancient landscape. The land is something that transcends time: it’s a very powerful connection that an artist has to their place.”
The young artist admits to being heavily influenced by her father, both by his approach to painting and his lifestyle. With Tsering’s career in its ascendancy, Hannaford Snr’s filial support is buoyed by Adelaide’s lively network of young artists.
“I feel part of a community and really inspired to produce artwork at a global standard in Adelaide,” she says. “If you’re an artist, Adelaide has got everything you need. South Australians in general celebrate and nurture emerging artists.”
Indeed, Tsering’s recent spell in New York – producing the works featured in her exhibition during Adelaide Fringe (16 Feb to 15 March) – was enabled by an Individual Development grant via Arts SA.
She adds, “Coming back to Adelaide [from New York] made me feel very grateful for the space, light and ease of living. Half an hour’s drive out of Adelaide, you can be in the most beautiful landscape. Going over there was incredibly stimulating, but made me very thankful for what I have here.”
Advantages include affordable living and studio space, plus a series of new, dynamic exhibition sites like Chancery Lane Gallery, which opened its doors in late 2015.
“They have a focus on figurative realism, which is right up my alley, but their main vision is [having] a fresh and exciting space in the city. They’re a young gallery… and I’m really happy to be part of it right at the beginning.”
Having once worked in the same downtown studio his daughter now shares with fellow SA artist Julia Townsend, these days Robert lives and works in Riverton, a township of around 1000 residents, 100km north of Adelaide. With generations of Hannafords born and raised in the area, the family’s connection to the land is palpable.
“The landscape here is so free and open,” Robert says. “You can go in anywhere, camp anywhere, paint anything. There’s something about the space, the big open sky and the elevation: you can see across 100 miles in any direction from certain vantage points.”
A highly regarded sculptor in addition to his multi-prizewinning landscapes and portraits, Robert’s colour palette is heavily informed by the changing seasons.
He says, “Where we are, winter is green and summer is pale yellow. That pale yellow against a blue sky is quite unusual; it denotes South Australia to me. I love painting it in summer.”
A committed conservationist who collects and propagates endemic native flora, Robert and his wife – the artist Alison Mitchell – exhibit works at their Riverton Light Gallery on the main street of town. A converted garage of unusual light and beauty, the gallery also accommodates Robert’s sculpture studio and a shrewd creature comfort: openings are famed for wood-fired pizzas served straight from the onsite oven. Their private homestead is miles away – and a thousand from care.
“I’d always look for that sort of peace,” Robert says. “I love it up here at night-time, when you can see the Milky Way and it’s so dark. [I get] that clarity and there’s no noise. For me, that’s a terrific atmosphere in which to tune in to the things that really matter.”