Hanna Brody
Who's a Good Girl?

August 5 - September 3, 2022

A conversation between Thierry Goldberg Gallery and Hanna Brody

Thierry Goldberg: Tell me a bit about your practice.
Hanna Brody: In the last three years or so I’ve been starting a new chapter, trying to move away from supe representational works. During COVID I lost my studio so I had to make some adjustments to working from my apartment. It turned out to be a blessing because it pushed me out of my comfort zone of oil painting. I began exploring painting with a print process by doing these quick watercolor mono-portraits. I would create two mirroring images by working back and forth between the final work and an additional work. When I finally got a studio again and had the access and ability to go back to oil painting, I began to use this printing technique as a way to work more freely. I find that it helps me stay away from the very precise and rigid. 

TG: How do you find the feeling of working in a looser, more fluid fashion?
HB: It's really hard. To be honest, it's a gradual process that I'm really pushing myself toward because it's not my instinct. My innate instinct is to be a perfectionist, but I don't think it actually serves me. I constantly feel like I’m rewiring myself.

TG: What is your painting process like? How do you begin your work?
HB: It really all starts with a bunch of photographs that I usually take during candid conversations. I don’t plan it. I just end up with a bunch of pictures on my phone from my one on one hangout with friends and close relatives. I will then mess around on my phone doing some cropping and collaging until I get an idea of the composition. Before I even begin painting it is important fo me to cover the whole canvas with a singular wash. I cannot have any white showing because it gives me anxiety. From there I will generally block in the shapes and forms. Then I'll either start doing an inverse painting on a large piece of plastic so that I can print it; or, I'll start directly on the canvas and use a piece of plastic to lift the paint off. I'll paint back and forth between these two methods until I feel the work is getting toward completion. Then I move into oil paint and stick as a way to refine the work and add texture.

TG: Your monoprinting technique allows for variation in color, line, and form. What do you find to be interesting about this process? What qualities do you think it adds to the works?
HB: I like how it invites movement. I can't be too precise and print directly right on top of where I just printed. So the figures are kind of moving. For me it allows the work to not just capture one moment, but a series of moments. So it's not a specific picture. It's a picture created from a bunch of pictures or replicas of the same pose. 

TG: There is a certain Intimacy that is expressed in your work. Your figures appear often at ease, their guards down. What is it about expressing these moments in your work that you find so compelling?
HB: These are the relationships that have really made me and allowed me to be me. This whole body of work I started when I was first getting sober three years ago. There were a lot of changes. In these works I engage with the people who were with me during that process, many whom I knew beforehand. Our relationships have changed and we've gotten closer. I think intimacy is kind of inevitable for this process.

TG: Would you say, due to the process of moving towards sobriety, there is a rawness exhibited in these works?
HB: Definitely. I mean I was forced to be vulnerable with the people who are closest to me. Sobriety was something I had to share and it forced our relationship to change. As I was forced to be so open and vulnerable, these moments, even if we're just sitting in a park together, became a marker of the people and relationships that stayed with me. Our relationships are closer, more well defined and not hinged upon the good times. Something that sobriety has given me is the ability to be present and remember and enjoy all these little moments that before were easily forgotten in lieu of a big night. You know the big highs and the low lows. The in between things were kind of lost.

TG: Who do you choose to paint and why? 
HBThey are always my close relationships: family, my circle of friends, my boyfriend and my dog.

TG: Your dog is often pictured in your paintings.What aspects do you think she brings to your work?
HB: Electra, my dog, is a big symbol of my sobriety. I never thought I could take care of an animal. I think this ability to care for another being becomes a symbol of selflessness. Because of her companionship to me, she ends up in all of the photos. The paintings, however, aren't about her. I think she adds an essence of caretaking and nurturing as well as an aspect of decentralization. Her presence detracts in a way from me, or the subject, being the one important thing. I also feel like she adds an element of intimacy signifying a sense of safety in each portrait.

TG: How long do you usually spend on a work?
HB: It varies. I am relatively slow. I often take a few weeks to complete a work. I find that I need a few days away from a painting in order to come back to it. So, I try to work on multiple painting at a time rotating through this process of working intensely and taking space. 

TG: We talked about your works capturing a series of moments rather than a singular
moment. What is it for you that is so important in picturing time in this manner?

HB: I'm trying to capture those bland moments that make up what's meaningful in life, the ones that are often overlooked. Instead of a singular big event, I want to show those really intimate moments with the people who are close to me. I find it is a combination of several small instances over time that create a relationship. I want my work to be a remembrance of what it feels like to spend time with these people. So I'm trying to pay attention to those moments when I feel really safe and vulnerable with the people close to me, not on really stand out days but more the small ones that compile into an entire relationship.