In the packed out Art Gallery of South Australia last Friday night, major exhibition Robert Hannaford was launched alongside their monthly offering, First Fridays. As patrons settled into the seductive tunes of quartet Miss Wonderful, whispers of marvel circulated, and was eagerly anticipated by Glam Adelaide’s Sophie Armstrong.
As I walked down, Robert Hannaford’s gaze met me in poignant contemplation. His live portrait by Closer Productions looks over the first room in equal parts gratitude and curious observation. Having the pleasure of speaking with Robert, I got a small sense of what it is like to be seen by the eyes of someone who has dedicated his life to observation. Of it, he says “My soul is quickened by the exploration of the visual world”. This excitement is explored throughout the exhibition. For me, the portraits of his daughter Tsering, 10 years apart and of his wife Alison in a silk kimono, are arresting examples of intimate artwork and a tribute to his intensity.
“When painting my family, the face of a beloved relative becomes more extraordinary” Robert Hannaford
As you move through the exhibition, you move through Robert Hannaford’s life. From early self portraits and observational drawings in the 1950s to progressions in oil paint, a collection of prolific portrait commissions, family and of course the scrutiny of his own portrait – the patron truly gets a sense of what it is like to see his world through his eyes.
Of the exhibition, director Nick Mitzevich said, “It will celebrate the intimacy between Robert Hannaford and his sitters as well as 500 years of the Gallery collection in which Hannaford was inspired by.” Artists such as Hans Hysen, Rembrandt and Rodin make a seamless appearance in the exhibition to give context to Hannaford’s work and particular style.
I ended my time in the exhibition inspired. A successful curation of a show will do that to you and Sally Foster certainly delivered. The last room of the exhibition is called the Drawing Salon. All of a sudden a board, paper and pencil were in my hands and I was sketching, albeit poorly, but it was the perfect experience to mark the end of the journey.
The drawing room is available throughout the exhibition amongst many other scheduled offerings. The exhibition is free and open from July 2nd to October 9th. Plan your visit around tours at 11am and 2pm every day. Stop off at The Greenhouse Studio to practise still life drawing or book in for a real life drawing class at the portrait workshop run by artist Diedre But-Husaim.