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In the Studio with… Hanorah

Introducing “In The Studio”, a new interview series which takes you into the studios of Montreal’s most exciting artists. We begin our series with Hanorah, a powerful soul singer and musician who opened for the legendary Mavis Staples last year at POP Montreal. Hanorah welcomed us into her painting studio to share musings, sketches and speak on the link between her paintings and music.

Photos by Tess Roby

What time of day inspires you the most?

I think for music, early in the morning. Painting, afternoon, and writing, evening.

Do you have any rituals to help you through the winter?

Winter isn’t my favourite season… I’ll latch onto a tv show from the 2000s, lately it’s been Malcom in the Middle, and I’ll put it on loop in the background and try to do something creative while it’s playing, whether it’s drawing or writing something on the guitar.

Tell us about the guitar you brought with today.

I wish I had brought any other guitar! This one has the least interesting story… I bought it off a guy named John. So I named the guitar John! All my guitars have stories. I bought a baritone last year, which I really love writing on.

How would you say your two mediums intersect with each other?

When I was in CEGEP I experienced a sexual assault. It pressed down on me all the time and I needed to find a way to get that out of me, so I painted a lot at school and wrote poems in my sketchbook. Those poems became my first songs.

Are there elements of your music that can be found in your paintings, or vice-versa?

Lately in paintings I’ve been seeking more joy, and appreciating the idea of the body. I didn’t paint figures much before, and now that I’m doing it I’m wondering if I’m idealizing it, am I warping it on purpose as to not idealize the form? I developed a complex my body after the assault, and since I deal with issues of mental health in my lyrics, I find that I’m working through the same issues in my painting of the body.

Can you tell us about one of your favourite paintings in your studio?

I took a good break from painting for a few years, then one night I got back from a gig around 1am… I had this big canvas frame in my room, and felt the need to paint, so I took the sheet of my bed and started painting. It didn’t come out so well, but it led to this painting, which was the second one I did after the giant bed sheet canvas.

I had never painted like that before – the glowing yellow on the body, new colours, a subject matter I hadn’t painted before. I felt really happy while I was painting it. That was probably a real turning point artistically that I could paint from joy and not just depression. There was a tenderness in reclaiming a space that had once been so traumatic for me. Now it’s a safe haven, where I’m in control and I’m at rest.