Friday, April 13, 2007

Artist Profile: Hanan Harchol

Artist Profile: Hanan Harchol

Witnessing Sacrifice
, 2003, 10 ft x 8 ft acrylic on canvas, video monitor, lasertran © Hanan Harchol

I've known multi-media artist, Hanan Harchol, for a number of years. Consistently over this time, I have been impressed by the seemingly limitless reserve of energy he devotes to his art.
Using family narratives as a springboard, Hanan's art addresses psychological and sociological themes pertaining to the human condition. At the heart of these family narratives is ‘The Nuclear Physicist,’ an Israeli nuclear physicist of Eastern-European Jewish heritage. This character, based upon Hanan's father, provides plenty of real-life material to amuse and enlighten. For example, Hanan supports himself by working as a professional classical guitarist; despite the fact that Hanan has won numerous awards and competitions and regularly performs at venues, such as New York’s Tavern on the Green, The Nuclear Physicist can’t seem to get past the idea that his son is a “strolling guitarist.”

Here's a clip by Hanan which introduces The Nuclear Physicist:

I had been wanting to profile Hanan for some time and with an upcoming world premiere of his work at the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film, now seems like the perfect time. What follows is an interview I recently conducted with Hanan.

Do you have any more information about the World Premiere in Stuttgart? Perhaps a link to a relevant website?

The Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film is one of the largest festivals for animated film in the world. It addresses both an interested audience and industry professionals, and offers an overview of the latest trends in animated film – from short films to feature films and animated series for TV. Be it puppet or flash animation, the five competitions all focus on the artistically challenging genre of animated film. "Hanan! ListenTo Me!" : The Circumcision was selected by the festival as a finalist in the Animated Television Series competition in the Adult category. The screening is on April 27th, 2007 at 8 o'clock. The festival link is

[Here's a trailer for "Hanan! ListenTo Me!" : The Circumcision]

Are you focused solely on animation these days or are you still painting? How is it that you went from fine artist to animator? What was that transistion like?

Excellent question! I actually try to incorporate as much of my background as a painter into my animation. In this last piece, "Hanan! Listen To Me" I created a collage of painting, drawing, photography, and video in an animated platform. I like to describe my animation as a "painterly animation" I have been making narrative art for most of my life and I feel that animation is a continuation of the same path I've always been on. The medium in which I work in changes or adapts based on the most effective way to express and expand on my narrative.

Can you tell me about the inspiration for The Nuclear Physicist? Is the creation of these sketches cathartic for you ?

I've been impersonating my family and making art since early childhood. I never knew that I could combine the two as art, until a professor of mine, Judith Brodsky pointed out to me that my paintings of my father were the most effective and successful art I was making. (At the time I was making abstract paintings and I had just made a couple of paintings of my dad for my own interest.) I asked her "Who is interested in art about my dad?" and she pointed out that I shouldn't worry about that, that everyone has a dad, and that it was the artwork I was making about my father that was really working). It was a very liberating and inspirational moment and I felt like a creative floodgate had been opened. When I draw and impersonate my family it feels like second nature to me and also a little strange, especially when I take on the role of my father. There is a sense of catharsis for me, but I also see and experience it as a universal exploration of family through one's relationship to one's parents. Many people who see my animations come to me with stories of their own family. I'm intending my art to resonate on a human level. I use my own family simply because that's who I know best.

Has your art always been so autobiographical?

Yes (except for most of my undergraduate career when I decided to be an abstract painter)

Has your dad ever seen these clips? If so, what does he think about them?

My father is one of my biggest supporters. He sees The Nuclear Physicist as a character that was inspired by him, but has taken on a life of its own and is not an accurate portrayal of him. The rest of my family, and people who know him disagree, but in any case, my father has been tremendously supportive, encouraging, and believes in my work as an artist. He does worry how long I'm going to continue supporting my art as a strolling guitarist, but in the recent months we've come to an agreement that my job as a musician is truly a blessing in that it gives me the time I need to make my animations.

All images and videos and animations in this post are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the sole copyright owner Hanan Harchol. All Rights Reserved.

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