Winning the Blake Prize’s John Coburn Emerging Artist Award marked a turning point in the way artist Carla Hananiah considered her practice. “Suddenly I was seeing my work hung alongside artists whom I had long admired - it was a huge shift for me in dreaming and believing bigger,” she says.

The Sydney-based artist has always painted but she has learnt valuable lessons along the way in terms of her art practice. At university, a lecturer advised that she should build up her CV one line at a time. Since graduating from the University of NSW with a Master of Fine Arts, she's been accumulating a long list of exhibition and award showings. One of the first was the Winsor and Newton’s Start Your Studio scholarship, which helped her to invest in quality materials and understand the science behind the materials and pigments she uses.

More than anything, though, "Art is my happy place, where I slow down, zone out and am more focused all at once,” she says. Carla is exhibiting Mapping the Insurmountable at Arthouse Gallery until 8 August.

Which five words best describe you? Romantic, determined, easy going, creative, nature-lover. 

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Undertaking my MFA at COFA was probably when I can mark the start of my career – it was when I first started to make a cohesive body of work that I felt a true affinity with. It was from that point that I spent time not only creating but also finding ways to get my work shown. I gained commercial representation in 2010 and since then I have held regular solo exhibitions in both NSW and Queensland.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To get over my insecurities, work hard and be tenacious. I used to allow fear to paralyse my creativity and so I disqualified myself from trying.

What’s your proudest career achievement? In the space of a year I won three awards – the Blake’s John Coburn Award, The Hornsby Art Prize and the Mosman Prize Viewer’s Choice. Such a quick succession of recognition really affirmed the direction I was taking in my work. It was a very exciting time.

What’s been your best decision? To never give up and to not despise the days of small beginnings – they are the training ground for when you do start making some track work on your aspirations.

Who inspires you? Dreamers and doers, especially creative peers who manage the balancing act of career and children.

What are you passionate about? Art: colour, mark-making, beauty, photography. Family, good food and coffee, travel, spending self-reflection time outside. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? So many dead artists – it would be so interesting to really meet the person behind the works we see in books and museums. Living - William Robinson. On a different note, I’m looking forward to meeting any other children I may have.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To live a full life – one of travel, adventure and passion, where you look back with lots of “I’m glad I did that or learnt that” moments in it.
I would also love to have a home with a huge garden one day.
What are you reading? A few books on the go – one on birds and William Morris, because I love the illustrations, and Antarctica – The Blue Continent.

images courtesy of carla hananiah and arthouse gallery