Artist Nora Hanasay conducts workshops from her studio at The Rockampton Girls Grammar School.
Artist Nora Hanasay conducts workshops from her studio at The Rockampton Girls Grammar School.

Nora finally comes to the art of assemblage

When Nora Hanasy was a little girl in Hungary, she would often get in trouble for sneaking into the hut behind her grandmother's house.

"It was the original dwelling, with its dirt floor and blackened old stove, that remained out the back after my grandparents built their new house," she said.

"There were dusty old books and porcelain dolls and black and white photos everywhere and I loved it.

"It was a museum of stuff."

Fight of Fancy by Nora Hanasy
Fight of Fancy by Nora Hanasy

Her family moved so many times, even after they came to Australia when Nora was 10, she said they never really had a home, only houses.

"I think I'm attracted to discarded materials and weathered surfaces because they provide me with that link to the past and make me feel comfortable," she said.

Happily, Ms Hanasy's artistic ventures have found a new home in the attic of the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School. She teaches at the school part-time.

"The school has been very kind in giving me a space to pursue my art, and it's really nice for the students to see how an artist works away from the classroom," she said.

It's also a relief for her "extremely supportive and tolerant" husband and teenage daughter who are accustomed to having their living spaces taken over by Ms Hanasy's found objects.

They come from the tip, from garage sales, are donated by friends, or are simply picked up off the streets.

Landscape Study by Nora Hanasy
Landscape Study by Nora Hanasy

"I was given boxes and boxes of piano hammers which I unwrapped on the couch," she said.

"I was arranging them according to colour and size to work out what I could do with them so I said, "Sorry, family, but the lounge room is off limits for a couple of days.""

Ms Hanasy admits to being especially compulsive about collecting bottle caps - "the more rusty and squished, the better" - and bristles from the street sweeper vehicles.

Her studio is filled to the brim with old musical instruments, mannequins, tennis racquets, feathers, bones and stones and even snakeskin in a jar.

But until recently, Ms Hanasy didn't know what she was collecting for.

"I'd done a lot of photography and then printing and then painting and I really didn't know what to focus on," she said.

What Weighs You Down by Nora Hanasy
What Weighs You Down by Nora Hanasy

Then she went to an artists' dinner at the Rockhampton Art Gallery and had a one-on-one discussion with Ken Done.

"He told me to pay attention to what I was doing during those hours when the hours fly by and you don't come up for air," she said.

"That's where your passion lies; that's where you heart is."

Ms Hanasy has since incorporated her photography and printwork into the art of assemblage, which celebrates the union of unrelated objects.

"Sometimes I have a preconceived idea, if I'm making a prop for the Steampunk Convention, for example," she said.

"But usually the material dictates the story behind the work, and even I'm surprised by what that turns out to be."

Piano by Nora Hanasy
Piano by Nora Hanasy

Ms Hanasy said that ­working on the school's campus, and having students come to visit her studio, is "great practice" at articulating what her art is about.

"It's something I need to do as a practising artist, and something they have to learn as part of their curriculum," she said.

"Talking about my art puts me in their shoes."

Ms Hanasy has rented an additional space from the school to offer an eight-week workshop on Thursday nights in February and March.

The course, which will focus on the transition from drawing to collage and painting, will begin on Thursday February 6 between 6 and 8pm.

Valentines Deal by Nora Hanasy
Valentines Deal by Nora Hanasy

The course is targeted at ­beginners - "even if you've never picked up a pencil in your life, you'll be fine" - but Ms Hanasy said more experienced artists would have scope to take their work in different directions.

"It's not paint by numbers," she said.

With space limited to about a dozen participants, and some places already booked, ­interested parties can contact Ms Hanasy on 0404 204 361 or email

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