Art and soul: Local artist makes her mark

Tsering Hannaford

Photo by Gretl Watson-Blazewicz.

Over the past few years, Tsering Hannaford has gained significant recognition in the art industry and community, with an undeniable talent, passion and dedication to her craft. 

She has featured in exhibitions across the globe and achieved an impressive seven nominations for the prestigious Archibald Prize. Though pursuing painting professionally seemed like a natural fit, Tsering almost ended up on a very different career path. 

Growing up, Tsering was surrounded by art. Her mother, a teacher and shoemaker, was always knee deep in a creative project around the house. Her father Robert Hannaford AM, notable South Australian painter and sculptor, encouraged her to experiment and create.

“I grew up in a really creative household in the South Australian countryside. There were always pens and pencils around, it was a very nurturing and stimulating environment,” she said.

Being an artist seemed like destiny for Tsering. Though after school, having performed well across all subject areas, she took a different route and pursued a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) at the University of Adelaide. 

“My interests were so broad, and at that point I didn’t recognise that my ability in art was something special. I enjoyed it just like any other subject, but it did come quite naturally to me.”

But the art Tsering produced was far from ordinary. Despite being genuinely fascinated by Psychology, she couldn’t deny the pull she felt throughout university towards her creative side. 

“Looking back through all of my lecture notes, invariably they’ve all got drawings in the margins, all over them. It was always in there, just waiting to come out I think.

“By the end of my undergraduate degree, I just had a real yearning for art and it was something I think I felt if I didn’t explore, I would genuinely regret.”

Tsering Hannaford

Photo by Gretl Watson- Blazewic.

After a gap year, Tsering enrolled at the University of Adelaide once again, this time to pursue a Graduate Diploma in Art History. With her passion finally getting the attention it deserved, she actively sought out more opportunities to showcase her work, and became involved with the Royal South Australian Society of Arts.

In no time at all, Tsering’s pieces were getting recognised more frequently, and gradually she began winning art grants and awards, falling deeper and deeper into a professional art career. 

“That time during my Grad Diploma was the first step towards becoming a painter. I had some fantastic mentors, lecturers and course coordinators at that time who were very knowledgeable and pointed me in the right direction. 

“I was exposed to painting conservation at Artlab Australia through my degree, where I went on to volunteer and incidentally hosted my first exhibition, which won the 2014 Best Visual Art award at the Adelaide Fringe.”

In 2009, Tsering won her first award with the Royal South Australian Society of Arts, where she has since gone on to become a Vice-President. She went from strength to strength and, in 2013, achieved her first nomination for the Archibald Prize Salon des Refusés.

“I entered a portrait in the Archibald which was selected for the Salon de Refusés exhibition that year, and subsequently bought by Barry Humphries, who is also an art collector, and it was a lovely reinforcement to keep going. 

“From then on, I kept painting and didn’t really look back. I think I’d finally arrived at this realisation that painting could be a very satisfying and fulfilling career for me,” she said. 

Tsering Hannaford

Image of 'Self portrait after Allegory of Painting' - 2020 Archibald Prize highly commended.

Her submission for the 2020 Archibald Prize is another career stand out, a self-portrait based on ‘Allegory of Painting’ by Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi, which was highly commended.

“That was a significant highlight, to be recognised in that way for a painting that was about so much more than just me. It pays homage to female artists and trailblazers in their time. It was a very proud moment.”

At the heart of Tsering’s work are the themes and ideas she was exposed to while at university.

“My courses I took in Humanities got me thinking more about women’s experiences in the world which I’ve explored through my work for the Archibald as well as at a recent solo exhibition at Gagprojects in Adelaide. 

“Those genesis subjects that I took in my first degree have informed much of my practice today. 

“Art is an avenue for me to be participate in a larger cultural conversation, non-verbally. I’ve had many rich opportunities to reflect on the values of our society through my work, where I can draw parallels with has happened consistently throughout history. 

Tsering Hannaford

Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC beside her portrait at 2021 Archibald Prize.

This year, Tsering has already been featured on the cover of Thames and Hudson publication ‘Still Life’ by Amber Creswell Bell, and will adventure to the Kimberly’s later this month to take part in a painting residency with Paspaley Pearls.

“It’s always thrilling for me to be taken to a new city or a new place to paint someone, meet someone new and get their perspective on life.”

“It’s a really enriching thing. I’m always grateful for the opportunities that come my way and I love to give back where I can. I often pinch myself that I get to do what I love,” she said.

Story by Sasha Champion.

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