When are you a native? When do you finally belong where you live? This may be a two-way road: partly depends on the views and acceptance of the predecessors, partly depends on your own mentality.
Artist Jeewan Suwel calls Hobart home, but admits that one day he might think “I belong in this place” and another day he might think “oh, I don’t belong here”.
In his art, landscape is everything. Looking up from Hobart’s city and suburbs, the average person will see looming kunanyi/Mount Wellington, an ancient peak weathered by time. But when he saw it, and thought it dominated the city, he said it reminded him of Annapurna, the mountain he grew up in Nepal.
At 8,091 meters, Annapurna is the tenth highest in the world, while Kunani at 1,271 meters is far behind. But for Suvar, it’s all relative. “In Kathmandu we’re surrounded by mountains, in Hobart we’re surrounded by mountains.
“But when you see Mount Wellington from Kingston, it’s a different image than what you see from the city or Glenorchy. So we can call it one thing, but it’s always changing, so You paint it from your perspective.”
Suwel paints abstract landscapes, often with hints sufficient to showcase the place, such as the Wrest Point tower in Sandy Bay, or the colorful cottages of Hobart’s New Town.
“The light changes moment by moment,” he said, as does the experience of being in the landscape. “The way of life, the Tasmanian way of life is the same, but the weather is always changing, temperature, rain, changing skies. Sometimes I forget I’m in Tasmania.”
He grew up on a humble farm in Nepal, studied art in India, encouraged by his father who saw his son’s artistic talent, then traveled to Australia, eventually settling in Hobart with his young family.
Suwel has twice been artist-in-residence at the Henry Jones Art Hotel on Hobart’s waterfront, where his work is also on display. They took the concept seriously by placing the artists in the foyer, where they could work and interact with guests and visitors.
As Tina Zucco, art curator at Henry Jones, puts it, many hotels display art, “Why not? There’s so much wall space,” but as far as she knows, They are the only hotel that actually employs an art curator.
In addition to being effectively a working gallery – with a rotating selection of more than 400 pieces adorning the lobby, hallways and walls at all times – the hotel is also home to various art projects and provides a platform for local artists.
These include exhibitions of the Henry Jones Art Prize and finalists, an artist-in-residence program, rotating exhibitions throughout the year, and tours of the hotel’s permanent collection. These include pieces from the famous John Glover collection in the hotel’s Landscape Restaurant & Grill.
The $20,000 Henry Jones Art Prize for Emerging Artists was established in 2018; this year, more than 100 entries have been submitted to be judged by an independent jury that narrows down the selection to 40 to 60 works for finalists to exhibit , and a winner is chosen. In addition to the prize money, the winners will also have the opportunity to hold a solo exhibition at the hotel.
As a working gallery, the hotel becomes a home for artists like Jeewan Suwel who can “show my journey and how I got there”.
The winners of the 2022 Henry Jones Art Prize were announced on November 23, and the exhibition of the finalists will be open to the public until December 4; admission is free. The hotel’s art collection can be viewed. Free for guests, $20 for visitors.
Rooms start at $320 per night. 25 Hunter Street, Hobart, Tasmania.Phone (03) 6210 7700, see www.thehenryjones.com.au
Jim Darby was a guest at the Henry Jones Art Hotel.