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Meet the Artist

Meet Australian painter and printmaker Bianca Harrington

 

Working from her dining room table, contemporary painter and printmaker Bianca Harrington creates wonderfully paired-back still life works. We catch up with her to discuss juggling life as a mother and an artist, the people that inspire her, and the exquisite new collection of prints she’s made in collaboration with us.

Hi Bianca, lovely to meet you. Can you tell our readers a bit about your practice, did you always want to be an artist?

I’ve always been a maker. My creativity has come in many forms over my lifetime. I spent my teens living in central Melbourne and a large chunk of my 20s in London. Both are such great cities for fuelling creativity.

I took botanical illustration classes for a while and prior to that I intensively studied Millinery design in London for a couple of years. Having the opportunity to work for Milliners is where I really had a chance to watch and learn from others in their own creative practice, seeding my own path to becoming an artist. 

I did a couple of seasons working for Stephen Jones which was a pretty key moment for a young Aussie girl following her dreams! I also specialised in artisan flower making for a while and I still love to block print textiles if I ever get the time.

Artisan paper flowers made by Bianca HarringtonArtisan paper flowers made by Bianca Harrington

If you hadn’t become an artist, what other careers do you think you would have pursued?

I’d love to have been a horticulturist, research scientist, neurologist, or entomologist – I’m fascinated by insects – or even a sustainable house architect! 

What does a typical working day look like for you?

I seem to start every day with a cup of chai. Sometimes, I listen to an art podcast while I’m organising myself to start working. I also have a flick through one of my sketchbooks or stick some visuals on the wall to focus my mind for the day.

I used to love working late into the night before the kids came along. These days it’s between the hours of 10:00 and 3:00.  I need daylight to keep me awake and make the right colour choices.

Before, I had a home studio but, since the pandemic hit and my partner needed a place to work from home, most of my work is made on the dining table. It overlooks the garden and actually has the best light. I often move around the house anyway depending on the light, noise, and temperature.

Bianca Harrington at work on her dining room table overlooking her gardenBianca Harrington at work on her dining room table overlooking her garden

Do you work with music on?

I love silence when I’m working. I get a bit sensorily overloaded trying to work with music.  A temporarily quiet house is a bit of a luxury round here!  I always have music or podcasts for the setup and cleanup.

Can you tell us more about the materials you use?

I have a lot of brushes and a limited colour palette of about 6 or 7 colours that I mix. I like to incorporate texture to add interest to my work.  Wood panels and paper are my main surfaces.

‘I often find myself zoning out at a café or restaurant, my attention stolen by the arrangement of glassware on the table!’ – Bianca Harrington

Bianca Harrington's sketchbooksBianca Harrington's sketchbooks

You create a lot of still life paintings, can you tell us more about the themes of your work?

My still life pieces are often a reflection of how life revolves around our family table.  We live in a small house so it’s an intrinsic part of life at home.

Creating my minimal tablescapes is a way for me to explore textures and hone my skills and style within everyday life at home. 

I also often find myself zoning out at a café or restaurant, my attention stolen by the arrangement of glassware on the table! 

I’m always captured by the smallest of details, perhaps a motif on a garment in a museum will later show up in my work. I will record details from everyday life in my sketchbook for reference later, so I suppose I’m constantly drawing on personal experience.  

Bianca Harrington's home studio Bianca Harrington's home studio

Are there any other artists in particular whoe inspire you?

The artists I admire cover a pretty broad range of time, style and techniques. Some of the artists that have really made a home in my mind are Cressida Campbell, Mary Delany, Louise Bourgeois, Nyapanyapa Yunupinju, Kiki Smith, the quilters of Gees Bend and Makota Kagoshima. 

I also really enjoy looking at the art of Modernists and, of course, I also love watching my kids paint. It is truly wonderful and educational!

A selection of Bianca Harrington's still life paintingsA selection of Bianca Harrington's still life paintings

What kind of art do you hang on your walls at home?

We own a bit of a mix. My partner is an illustrator so he is naturally drawn to illustrative artists such as Rovina Cai and Amy Sol. I am lucky enough to have an etching by Nyapanyapa Yunupinju which I love and some gorgeous work by Emily Besser amongst others.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time? 

Still exploring, practising and evolving! I hope to make more work with the time I will gain when both of my kids start school in a couple of years.

Although I’ve been a maker forever I’m really only at the beginning of this painting chapter. I’d like to aim for a solo show someday.

An exhibition wall featuring one of Bianca Harrington's still life paintingsAn exhibition wall featuring one of Bianca Harrington's still life paintings

What do you think the challenges are for artists now?

Although the internet has been the best tool for achieving worldwide exposure, it can also make you feel like a single drop in an ocean of artists!

I think that it is generally easier to be an artist now than ever before and institutions are finally noticing the big holes in their collections and knowledge of artists that are not men! 

How would you describe the life of an artist in less than 5 words?

Contemplative. Privileged. Expressive. Resilient. Brave

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