National

Ardern takes Aussie artist to the world

By AAP Newswire

From Aussie backyard art studio to a global stage.

That's the story of Hannah Fox whose works have proved a hit with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and even had an outing with royalty.

Mum-of-three Fox at first declined a fashion collaboration with NZ designer Juliette Hogan, saying she was too busy.

But a change of heart led to her art being seen by millions.

Ms Ardern was in New York meeting world leaders at a United Nations Summit in September 2018 when she made a surprise appearance on the high-rating Late Show with Stephen Colbert, wearing a dress adorned with an abstract print of deep greens, browns and marigold.

Among the show's 3.5 million viewers were Fox's mates.

"Within minutes all my friends and family were messaging me, tagging me on Instagram and asking me 'have you seen this? Is this your painting?'" Fox said from her Northcote studio in Melbourne's inner north.

"She (Ms Ardern) had just given birth to her daughter and there was a comment about how fantastic she looked and then on Instagram she made a remark like 'I had my Spanx on,' it was so beautifully honest, she was so charming on the show."

The print, Daydream, was one of two the artist created for a spring/summer 2018 collection for Hogan to echo the hues of the forest floor.

The print is a favourite of Ms Ardern. She wore a dress in a lighter variation during a 2019 visit to New Zealand by Prince Charles and wife Camilla.

Photographs of the trio, and Fox's art, were beamed across the world as they met with victims of the Christchurch mosque shooting and toured the city's earthquake-ravaged cathedral.

Ms Ardern also wore it while rubbing shoulders with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting at Windsor Castle. She's worn a top from the collection to speaking events, to a hospital visit and in an edition of the New Zealand Herald she guest-edited to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage.

"I couldn't ask for a better canvas for my work," Fox said of Ardern.

And the feeling is mutual.

"From Hannah's work, I get comments all the time on the dresses and tops that I have of her designs," Ms Ardern told AAP.

The Kiwi leader is also a dedicated advocate for Hogan's designs, describing them as understated and beautiful.

Fox considers her art to be an abstract response to the natural world.

"For me, it's not really about representing the landscape in a realistic manner, I wouldn't be able to do it justice," she said.

"People respond to my artwork in the same way as they would if they were in the country or going on a bushwalk."

Her oil paintings evoke the green of foliage scattering the bush floor, autumnal leaves and brown twigs that lie in piles, the pink hues of peeling tree bark, sunlit earth and the deep midnight sky.

Her most recent exhibit, 'Citta. Terra', was developed during a 2019 artist residency at Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Italy.

Translating to 'Town. Earth', the paintings and ceramic works feature pastel pinks, terracottas and a rich aubergine and marigold which couldn't be mistaken for anywhere else in the world.

Fox's love of nature resonated with Hogan, who came across her work on social media.

"It's inspired, her work talks to people in a very unique way," she said.

"The collection was incredibly well received from our customers, people loved the treatment of the colours, the composition, the fact that it was this beautiful all-over print that was also quite subtle."

Being a mother to three primary school-aged boys, Fox's studio time is precious.

"My art has always been my way of being, so I was very conscious of not letting that go when I became a mum," she said.

It also means there's not a lot of time for dressing up.

But for her 40th birthday celebrations this weekend, she's reaching for a silk number showcasing her own work.