Gordon Hanley Australian, b. 1954-

Gordon Hanley was born in England and travelled to Australia with his parents as a five year old, spending most of his childhood and teenage years on his parent’s property in rural southeast Queensland. He began drawing from an early age, gaining inspiration from the subject matter around him. These were subjects found in every country area and included wildlife, old barns, abandoned cars, horses and botanicals, generally anything that was interesting at the time.

Graduating from high school with a Commonwealth University Scholarship, he went to the University of NSW and the University of Queensland, obtaining a B.Sc. in biology, a B.A., and a Diploma of Education. He illustrated many scientific papers during this time, developing a talent for meticulous accuracy and realism, drawing and painting subjects from life. After a five-year stint in the Navy and some years as a teacher, Gordon decided to pursue a career in art.

His first solo exhibition was held in 1990 and featured 33 paintings, all of which sold out on opening night. From this very first exhibition, the subject matter included figure - work, wildlife art and old structures, diverse subjects that have formed the basis of every exhibition and print release ever since. From 1992 Gordon has released over 100 different print titles in both open and limited edition format, making him one of the most published print artists in Australia in the last twenty years.

Although an oil painter for many years, Gordon switched to watercolour as his preferred medium in 1989, then to exhibition drawings from 2008. This is an unusual progression, because most artists who change media have tended to move in the other direction. Transparent watercolour is an extremely difficult medium in which to attempt a realist, sharp-focus style of art. There is no white paint in a true watercolour (the white is unpainted paper) and watercolours are essentially non-correctable. If a mistake is made, often the only solution is to start all over again. Despite this, Gordon’s loss rate is usually of the order of two or three paintings a year, which is just as well because each major work requires some 80 - 120 hours to completion. This does not include the time taken to do the many sketches and preparatory studies he usually does prior to painting.

Why go to all the trouble?
"With watercolour you have the perfect medium with which to create highly detailed images. This is why it was used for centuries in the rendering of scientific studies. As well as this, it is a medium of unparalleled flexibility in that you can create delicate fragile washes, lines of incredible subtlety and extreme hard edge clarity, yet at the same time it has unpredictability to it. It is simply the best medium in existence for the rendering of texture, whether it is the softness of fur or down,  patterns of rust and weathered logs or the delicacy of a flower. "

Gordon realized many years ago that watercolours could be used to create images like no other, and he began to rapidly explore the potential of this challenging medium. Entirely self - taught he is now widely recognized as one of the very best painters of watercolour, raising it to new heights.

For 4 years from 2000 until 2003 he worked on the ‘Jewels of Nature’ project: a large folio limited edition book on Parrots of the world which involved the creation of 244 watercolour paintings. During this time he was also Wildlife Artist in Residence at the Queensland Museum. In 2005 Gordon travelled to the UK to commence work on a book of the birds of prey used in Falconry. These magnificent birds will be presented in a very exclusive, large hand-bound collector’s edition of 60 or so life-sized colour plates and drawings. The books will be sold mainly to the Middle East.

Gordon has also been commissioned to work on a similar book on Rolls-Royce, featuring the 50 most significant models of this famous marque over the last 100 years. This project will entail visits to collectors and automotive museums around the world including access to Royal collections. Both projects are still on-going.

More recently Gordon has been creating drawings in 24ct gold metal on prepared paper. These goldpoint drawings done in a photorealist style may take many months to complete and he is probably the only living artist in the world who is producing photorealist images in this medium.

Each artwork, which consists of hundreds of thousands of individual lines drawn with a gold wire is the product of extreme patience, precision and time. Drawings done entirely in 24ct gold have a much warmer tone than drawings in pencil and when tilted to the light, the warm grey drawings come alive: reflecting in a shimmer of golden light. Portraits and figure drawings created in gold have an ethereal beauty quite unlike those produced by other drawing media. Put simply, you will not have seen anything quite like these drawings before. A mere photograph does not do them justice: these very rare and desirable artworks really have to be seen in their original form to be fully appreciated. 

Gordon Hanley’s artwork can be found in many private and corporate collections throughout Australia and overseas (most notably HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE) and also in the National Library (Canberra), The Queensland State Library, State Library of South Australia, and UCLA. He has been the subject of many interviews in both print and electronic media, including a 3 page article in The Weekend Australian newspaper. His artwork is currently represented in Morpeth Gallery NSW. Articles on his goldpoint work have been or are scheduled to appear in The Artist Palette Magazine, The Artist (UK), Australian Artist, International Artist, Slow Magazine, others pending.