We took a moment to chat with artist and Wiradjuri woman, Hannah Lange.
Hannah channels her Indigenous heritage through her captivating paintings. Dot by dot, line by line, she tells her story by embodying patience and earthly wisdom. She is ever inspired by country, both inland and coastal and we are so pleased to share this insight into her art practice and lifestyle.
What does your artistic process involve?
My artistic process usually starts by spending some quality time on country. Taking in the tiny elements of nature, trying to notice the beauty in the smallest of details. I take photos of little snippets of nature that inspire me. After that I sit on it for a few days, sometimes weeks. Staring at the pictures over and over. In this time I’ll paint some swatches of colour combinations, dots and line sizes I like. Then I just let it flow naturally from there. I find starting a new painting very daunting and exciting at the same time. I try not to have too many expectations but at the same time I want to do the slice of nature I am trying to represent justice.
What led you down the path of becoming an artist?
I’ve always been a creative person. I used to run a picnic business in the Blue Mountains and I would create these amazingly decadent picnics in the most surreal locations completely out in the wilderness. This is probably what sparked the fire to make me want to paint. I felt inspired! After closing my business (when covid hit) I felt really lost. I had moved to Byron so I was away from my Aboriginal community, I had no creative outlet and to be honest it made me quite sad. That’s when I started painting! To feel connected to my culture again and to have a creative outlet. I also had this hunger to learn more about who I was and what my culture meant to me.
How have your paintings changed or developed since moving to Byron Bay?
I only really started painting seriously after moving to Byron but I think it was one of the things that inspired me to start painting because I was away from the country I grew up on. Most of my paintings so far are based on nature from Darug, Gundangurra and Wiradjuri country. It’s like a way for me to connect to that land without physically being there.
As a mother, what would you tell your younger self in hindsight?
I guess I would tell myself not to get too focused on having, what society perceives, as a ‘successful’ career. I think for so long I told myself I couldn’t be creative because it would mean I wouldn’t be successful in the typical sense of the word. Now I am older and slightly wiser I can see how silly and damaging those thoughts are. Creativity has opened so many doors for me.
Have you always been immersed in your Aboriginal culture, or is it something you discovered later in life?
This is a tough one because I feel we are born with culture. Like its in our blood! But I would say growing up I didn’t get the opportunity to immerse myself as much as I would have liked. I did dancing and attended NAIDOC events but things were different back then. I would hope there's more opportunities now for young people to get engaged in their community and learn more about their culture. I felt I started really immersing in culture when I started my work with Aboriginal Not-for-profits when I was 18.
What subject matter do you most enjoy painting?
Definitely all things nature! I try to tell nature stories through my art. Aboriginal art has been used to tell stories and educate for time immemorial. I don’t have any cultural stories known in my family. So I tell natures stories. I try to capture the little pockets of nature that people may not notice in their everyday lives I.e. layers in rocks, veins in leaves, textures in bark, ripples in the sand etc
What does this year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘Heal Country’, mean to you?
I think it really highlights our culture as an absolutely imperative part of conserving our environment! The knowledge that our people have passed down through generations, that’s just been ignored for so long! We have such a strong connection to the land we should be looking to our elders for their knowledge to practice sustainability for example organisations like firesticks alliance practicing cultural burning like it would have been done before colonisation. This is the way forward in my eyes and this is what ‘heal country’ means to me.View Hannah's art here