Geoff Hannah’s magical woodworking & the Gallery begins…

The 'Hannah Cabinet' - Geoff Hannah's $1.5million cabinet.
The 'Hannah Cabinet' - Geoff Hannah's $1.5million cabinet.

The crowds for internationally renowned woodworker Geoff Hannah’s latest exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery have proved beyond doubt that the Gallery is ready for its expansion, writes Brett Adlington.

The Gallery has been heaving the last few weeks, as we fall under spell of local celebrity Geoff Hannah. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Hannah is a Lismore-based woodworker – though ‘woodworker’ seems to underplay his extraordinary ability.

Geoff creates amazing cabinets from a multitude of timbers, stone and inlays. They are full of complexity, with hidden draws and secret compartments. The Chinoiserie Cabinet, (currently on display) took three years to complete, while his previous Hannah Cabinet took six years to finish. The latter is hoped to be brought home to Lismore permanently in the new Lismore Regional Gallery. Some of Geoff’s other major cabinets are located in the Governor General’s residence in Yarralumla and in private collections internationally.

Geoff started his trade at Lismore-based woodworking company, Brown & Jolly in 1963 before going out on his own. A tremendous shift in his career came in the mid-80s, when Hannah ceased working from commission. He chose to work instead on his own highly detailed and complex works that inspire nothing less than awe.

Geoff Hannah (centre) with the students, in front of his Chinoiserie Cabinet in LIsmore. Photo: Tree Faerie

Geoff Hannah (centre) with the students, in front of his Chinoiserie Cabinet in LIsmore. Photo: Tree Faerie





In 1980 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship which enabled him to research fine furniture from the period 1635-1850, while travelling throughout England and France.  A condition of the Fellowship was that the recipient had to ensure their learnings were shared with people back in Australia. Geoff has taken this up with relish, teaching students across the country and from his home workshop in Lismore for the past 30 years.

The exhibition at the Gallery includes a range of works by his Lismore students, some of whom have been with him for the past 20 years.  The exhibition also includes a 45 minute documentary commissioned by the Gallery, Secrets and Sawdust: a master and his students prepare, produced by David Lowe & Eve Jeffery from Cloudcatcher Media. This film takes us into Geoff’s classes to give us a sense of the trials and triumphs of working in wood. We also meet a number of his talented and devoted students as they prepare for a major exhibition.

Ex Mayor Jenny Dowell, turning the sod for the new Lismore Regional Gallery.

Ex Mayor Jenny Dowell, turning the sod for the new Lismore Regional Gallery.

Additionally, a biography, Geoffrey Hannah: Never a Less Likely Bloke, has been published by Meg Heggen, and tells the wider story of Hannah, and what has led him to this point. The popularity of this exhibition has highlighted the constraints of the current Gallery, with attendees at artist talks being unable to be accommodated by the building. But this won’t be for much longer.

On Wednesday 7th September the first sod was turned on construction of the new Lismore Regional Gallery and Lismore Quadrangle. It was particularly wonderful to share this with Member for Page, Kevin Hogan MP; Member Lismore, Thomas George MP; Mayor of Lismore Jenny Dowell; Gallery staff and Senior Council staff; project architect Dominic Finlay-Jones; Director of Bennet Constructions Darryl Piper and a big group of financial donors from the community along who have all been staunch advocates for this project. This was also one of Jenny Dowell’s final official engagements – so it was particularly fitting to share this moment with her.


Geoff  Hannah & Students: In Glue and Dust we Trust – showing until Saturday September 24.
Students include: Colin Fardon, Barbara Riordan, Jan Page, Sue Egan, Ted Slattery, Jade Hughes, Lucille Stace, Rick Stewart, Sally Bates, Brian Emery, Darren Shaw, Rob Hurford, Brian Henry, John Whittaker, Greg Foster, Paul Armour, Francesco Stassi, Daniel Prentice, Gary Shallala-Hudson, Paul Laird, Wendy Laird, Paul Frangos and David Gilmore.



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