Interview – Hannah Gulland – Belgrade Art Studio Online Residency


When did you realize art was your path?

I would paint palm trees, sunsets and tropical worlds when I was a little one. I’m not sure if it was a realisation rather than a return to this. Children are inherently artists, they are present and free in the process or making. Painting and making was something intuitive to me, a place I could lose and find myself.

What do you feel is crucial to your growth as an artist?

Playing. Play is our ability to turn the world into something meaningful and magical. When we play we discover inner worlds, containing meaning and spark. Through playing we can remember the future as paradise, running wild, dancing to raindrops, dissolving the separation between ourselves and the grass. Playing is the source of making and living.

How do you thematically plan a piece of work? Where do these fascinating ideas come from?

For the most part, painting is an intuitive process and I prefer it to be. I enjoy colours and the relationships between them. I enjoy music and the colours it can create, how this connotes a feeling or an essence of something. Sometimes I consciously consider the images i’m working with, but my aim is to remove the thinking part and create from a place with as little thought as possible. Sometimes I listen to a song or i’ll see an image and I’ll paint from this. Sometimes I develop a painting digitally first and the physical is secondary. I see the creative process as inseparable from one thing to the next, it’s eclectic and one thing. There may be a consideration in parts, but my work is a blend of anything and everything going on in the world within and around me.

How would you describe your artistic style?

Immediately I want to say, I’m not stylised. This is art academia and it’s encouragement to reject any notion of stylisation. But it’s not true. Everyone has a style, a particular way of making that runs beneath each component of work. My paintings are often all prima, anywhere from abstract to figurative, and feminine. But it is important to experiment. I may have style but as soon as I am one style then what happens when I am not?

To what extent does the pandemic influence your depiction of art? Does it generate new inspiration?

The pandemic impacted our lives profoundly. This space was internal and introspective. Living inside came to reflect a journal of self discovery for me, whilst simultaneously I felt deeply connected to the outdoors, to nature. During this time, I began to meditate, on my floor, on myself and my artwork. In this space I felt as though I was rediscovering childhood, free and pure feeling. We were living in an almost timeless dimension for a moment and I have become fascinated with the qualities of this space. My paintings and textual work continues to explore an essence of childhood, presence, celebration, delicacy, poetry and meaning etc. Particularly our relationships with the screen and cinema. Before this I was interested in psychological spaces as a means to depict unspeakable feelings, but through the silence of the pandemic, I was able to find glitter beyond the clouds. I kind of returned to a child painting palm trees, projecting a sense of paradise.

How do you feel about being involved in an online residency program? How important is it to stay connected with the international art community?

It feels epic. I love the sense of connection the internet offers. It feels exciting to be with Artists from all around the world from the space of my bedroom, how cool is our world? This kind of connection is crucial in humanities growth. I believe the internet is becoming a fundamental tool in achieving a global network. We just need to begin to utilise it in its best ways and Belgrade is an example of this. We need to go beyond Identity, beyond boarders, together is how we expand ourselves and Belgrade makes this possible.

What are your thoughts about the theme ‘artist on standby’? Tell us a bit more about your project…

The term standby means to be present whilst watching something pass. This is inherently meditative. I’m interested in how this relates to mediation, not just the act of meditation but meditation as a utopian concept. How we can transcend fear through observation, through our ability to switch perspective and be something beyond yourselves.

What do you want to achieve before things return to normal if it is to happen? Any future plans/projects?

Things have returned to a sense of normality here. But I would love to inspire healing and connection. I have a few exhibitions coming up in Glasgow and from here I will continue to expand my horizons.