In Hannah Buchanan’s landscape paintings, she explores the ever-changing nature of the environment. Hannah seeks to portray the tranquility of a landscape with the absence of human interference to highlight our role within climate change; encouraging the viewer to think about their responsibility in keeping the climate stable. Her work explores Biocentrism, the idea that everything and everyone holds equal importance on the earth. Hannah shares some of the biggest lessons that have shaped her practise.
By painting a natural setting on a material that has been patched together, it highlights the key role we all play in tackling the climate crisis.
I like how you depict the ever-changing nature of the English landscape in your paintings. Are there certain emotions and memories you associate with each season? And if so, how do you go about portraying these?
It’s interesting to see how my productivity changes in conjunction with the seasons. I know that I feel more energetic in the summertime, so I seem to make a lot more work as a result. Every landscape has some sort of significance to me, so naturally my own feelings towards the setting is carried over into the painting. I know that colour has a huge influence over emotion so I use the colour palette to express emotive responses towards the landscape. For example, I have a very clear memory of sitting at the top of a valley last year on a late summer evening and it was lightly raining. Usually an overcast day makes feel low, but I had a strong sense of serenity at that time. Therefore, when painting the scene, I chose to use very warm greys and greens to give to the viewer that same sense of safety and calmness.
In your study of nature and landscape, have the effects of climate change been evident on the surrounding landscape? If so, how has this influenced your work.
I am very conscious of the environment when I am exploring a landscape. I usually avoid urban areas as the absence of greenery makes me feel uneasy, which is not something that I want to portray in a painting. However, I will sometimes paint abandoned areas or buildings and I love seeing how nature reclaims the earth again. Hopefully, this highlights the extensive beauty around us whilst also reminding us of the fragility of the landscape. I am also keen to make references to the climate in my titles because I want to encourage the viewer to think about their responsibility in keeping our climate stable. I have also made works which are painted on stitched canvas which again relates to the climate. By painting a natural setting on a material that has been patched together, it highlights the key role we all play in tackling the climate crisis.
The Dry Warm of June
You are also interested in Biocentrism, please could you share with us more about this? How does Biocentrism influence your art?
Biocentrism is the view that everything and everyone holds equal importance on the earth. This means that plants, birds and animals are all just as important as human beings. It seems that society today acknowledges human beings as a higher ranking than other animals and nature, but it is this attitude which has led our climate to danger. I try to show the tranquillity in the landscape with the absence of human interference. This is because I believe we need to try and live in harmony with our environment, not against it.
Walk us through your creative process … what are the different stages of your work? And what materials do you like to work with?
As I mentioned earlier, everywhere I paint has to have some sort of significance to me. Therefore, I always have to have some kind of experience there, something that makes me feel connected to the place I choose to work in. Ideally, I will go to a setting and sit there for a long time, thinking about how I want to portray the place and sketching potential compositions and colour palettes. Then I use the photographs and sketches to create a larger painting back in the studio. I choose to paint in oils because it allows a slow and methodical process, giving me time to reflect and really think about what I want to achieve with each individual piece.
I love being surrounded by greenery and seeing things grow, it makes me feel really connected to what I am creating.
What is your favourite part of the creative process?
Ooh, good question! I really like the beginning of a painting when I have found somewhere which excites me and I have lots of ideas whirling around in my mind. It’s then where I can start to visualise certain objects or compositional decisions that I want to put on canvas. On the other hand, I also really enjoy painting the final layers of a painting as that is where all the tiny details come into play. You have the satisfaction of having made your vision come alive but the real make or break moments are at this stage of the process.
You work predominantly from your Greenhouse (which looks so peaceful) – how is this for you? and do you have any art rituals when you work?
I wouldn’t say I have any rituals but working in a greenhouse means you have to start the day doing a few things to control the temperature! In the winter I have a portable oil-filled radiator which I have to warm up in the mornings, and in the summer, I pull the panes down to get a bit of a breeze running through the studio. I also try to have lots of plants in there with me all year round and I like tending to them in between painting sessions. Often when I am painting foliage, I will look out the window at the garden or at the leaves of certain plants as a reference. I love being surrounded by greenery and seeing things grow, it makes me feel really connected to what I am creating.
Maybe It Was Peace At Last
How do you feel when you create art? And what feelings do you hope to evoke within the viewer?
I’ll be honest, sometimes the process of making a painting can be incredibly frustrating. When something goes wrong or the final piece doesn’t look like what I’ve imagined, I can feel quite deflated. But, when something goes well, the feeling of elation is so powerful I’ll fall in love with painting all over again. I then take a bit of time away from a painting once it is finished, because I think the emotive connection to the process of making a painting and the finished piece are two different things. When I revisit my work after some space, I simply feel calm, and the busyness of life just disappears for a minute. I aspire to make the viewer feel the same way when they look at my work, bringing a feeling of nostalgia and mindfulness and evoking a contemplative experience for the viewer.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you have learnt so far within your art?
It’s been a year since I started painting full-time, and I feel like I have learnt a lot about the art world in a very short period of time. From a technical perspective, my work has been developing very quickly, but I have also surprised myself at how naturally this has come to me. One thing which has become very clear is that talent is actually a very small part of being an artist. I strongly believe that with a passion for creating and a hard-working ethic, you will be able to make huge strides in your artistic career regardless of pure talent. It’s cyclical but if you work hard, paint every day and love what you do then your skills will develop as a result.
Understanding This New Warmth
It seems that society today acknowledges human beings as a higher ranking than other animals and nature, but it is this attitude which has led our climate to danger.
What are your hopes and dreams as an artist?
This year I have taken on a lot of commissions and at times it has been difficult to balance this with making my own work. I hope to spend more time working on my own practice and having the confidence to make much bigger landscapes. I would love to exhibit in more national shows, I have really enjoyed that in the past. Specifically, exhibiting my own work in the Mall Galleries has always been a dream. Otherwise I am just going to keep doing what I am doing and see where it takes me…
What can we look out for?
At the beginning of lockdown, I hosted an Instagram Live ‘Exhibition Opening’ in my little studio as one of my shows had been cancelled. It was great fun and it was really well received, so I am planning another one at the end of August on the bank holiday weekend. I will also be doing a joint exhibition with Scarlett Woodman called ‘Nature Refocused’ at the Red Door Alchemist Gallery in Rye (Kent) from 30th September to 12th October 2020 which I am so excited about!
Furthermore, I will soon be sending some of my latest work to the Mucciaccia Gallery in Rome. Their mission is to show work from emerging artists all over the world and I am hugely grateful for their encouragement to show my work. My paintings will be exhibited there from September, so if you are in the area please do pay a visit!
Otherwise, I release a newsletter from the studio on the first Monday of every month, so if you would like to be the first to hear about what is going on, please subscribe from my website at www.hannahbuchanan.com
To view more of Hannah’s work: