Hilary Herrmann


The visual arts have always been an integral part of my everyday life, enhancing it with passion, stimulation and excitement. More recently however, I have applied myself and made the commitment to be a full time practising artist and so increasingly, as one world merges with the other, it has become the driving force in my life.

The privilege of working and travelling for many years in the remote homelands of Arnhem Land inspired my worldview and was the catalyst to my becoming a practising artist. This contact with the physical nature of the country, the indigenous people, their languages and cultural knowledge has enabled me to explore my own beliefs and sense of place. The kinship system, so complex and integral to their being, connects people, plants and animals, and reminded me of the sense of belonging and sharing, the learning and understanding that I had as a child.

My family had been political refugees, first from Europe and then Kenya. They arrived in Bangalow in the early 60’s and were embraced by the local community. This acceptance instilled in me at an early age a strong sense of belonging to a community. Upon leaving home I spent many years questioning life. Living in the Northern Territory and spending time in an Aboriginal community actually brought me back to my roots, to the realisation that what I aspire to achieve is a simplicity; that who I am and what I seek to express is intrinsically linked to my immediate environment ie. Bangalow and my eleven-year-old daughter, Frieda. They remain my most loved sources of inspiration and the focus of my life.
As my work reflects my environment, so my environment is a reflection of my art. My property has for fifteen years been providing studio space and affordable accommodation for artists, and living in this community where the people are thinking, caring and practising artists has been rich and stimulating.
The bodies of work I have undertaken in the last few years have often been thematic and personal. ‘Sixteen angels around my bed’ has its origins in a prayer said in Hebrew by my grandmother. The image of forty years ago is so strong. I can still feel her touch. And I feel a tear for her absence in my life. The paintings are images of love and protection in all situations. Another series, ‘All that remains’, is an historical diary of watching an old homestead bulldozed, watching its removal bit-by-bit, the garden and the rubble removed until all that remained was a tyre swing hanging in a nearby tree. I felt a strong urge to capture and remember this. These are the kinds of elements which characterise my work.

The body of work I am presently working on, is the imagery of a birthday cake. This signifies the omnipotence of time and transition in our lives. Approaching the age of fifty there comes a realization of one’s mortality. The philosophical kicks in, and for this has meant trying to live more in the moment, to fully appreciate the richness of what is in my life, and to be thankful for good health, the bounty of fresh air and clean water, choices of healthy food and life where political stability and safety are often taken for granted.

My art practice is a source of an all-consuming learning, and I seem to have an overwhelming and challenging desire to learn.
My work in the last few years has gone through quantum leaps in technical breakthroughs. The use of a limited palette, considerations of composition and depth of field, and increased knowledge has enabled these works to have a more sophisticated meaning. The visual imagery captures my feelings of everyday life and the choices we make, the sense of vulnerability, and the facades we need to deal with in our communication and social interaction.

This imagery has its roots in the solace I take from my daily routines; spending time with my daughter, friends, nature, and my daily walk on the property with my two dogs; the rituals of having my home and community as a place of welcome – a private world to be shared with the richness of friends. The innocence and whimsical nature of children and animals allows some of the harsh realities of a highly complicated and often difficult world to be filtered out. The world of consumption, commodity and hedonistic pursuits disturbs me. This creation of falsehoods and facade often brings visually to my paintings a sense of menace and questioning of day-to-day events. The juxtaposition of these contradictory forces in my life is the framework and essence of my visual imagery, and the pieces chosen are characteristic of this.

Visit www.hilaryherrmann.com to view her artwork and for more information.

Read the full article in the Artist Profile in Vol 3 Issue 24