LUKE HANNAM LOS GATOS MAG I HATE PAINTING

ART & CULTURE | by LUKE HANNAM | 09 JULY 2020

I HATE PAINTING

It seems like a ludicrous thing to say, right? I mean I obviously don’t hate painting; after all, I paint every day and it’s my life.

I HATE PAINTING is the title of a work I made in 2019 after a long period of creative frustration and dissatisfaction. My dissatisfaction stemmed from a sense that painting was limited in some fundamental way by its own self-image, almost as if painting were a living thing that had its own opinion of itself – an attitude problem, if you like. In my opinion painting has become tame, not all of it but in general the graphic qualities – the part that looks good in photographs had prospered, while the grit and spit of painting had withered on the vine.

I HATE PAINTING, 2020. Oil on canvas , 124 x 145 cm

As a musician and a painter, I asked myself why it was that music seemed better able to represent pain and anger, or at the very least something other than the respectful serenity found so readily in the ratios of balance and design inherent in modern painting. I turned my attention to one the most important and iconic sounds in popular music, especially rock music: the sound of screeching guitar feedback. Noise has played a pivotal role in the evolution of popular music - noise was the antimatter that enabled the sudden fracturing of the music your parents liked into something altogether more coded and secular. Noise made it possible for anyone to participate as it superseded skill, replacing it with attitude and urgency. I wondered about what the equivalent of noise might be in painting – what might be painting’s disassociation with aesthetic orthodoxy or even its revered history? This thought process led me to an imaginary scenario where painting was not simply something coming out of me but instead, a kind of adversary, an opponent that I had to beat. I decided to visualize my opponent as a dandy-like figure that expected respect, expected to be garnished with the finest pigments and treated as a deity or monarch, and my job was to strip it of its fancy airs and graces. My first salvo was to write across its chest as a symbolic  act of humiliation and degradation ‘I HATE PAINTING’. This simple act provided me with the screeching feedback I so desired. Suddenly the rules had changed – my job was no longer to serve painting, but instead to demand something different: to demand noise over music.

Timeless Peaks, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 75 x 50 cm

From this moment on I felt that I had reclaimed something; something powerful which meant that I could return to painting not as a slave bound to its tropes and follies, but as a demanding leader of its fortunes. I could tell my own story without fear of upsetting the canvas. 

Tranquility, 2020. Graphite on fabriano paper, 21x30 cm

The images and motifs twisted and turned, yet all the time I reinstated the slogan, adding devils and demons into the mix. I was aware from time to time that this was spell-making, an incantation to ward off complacency and achieve the shock I needed. The new ritual seemed to work. My methods and conceptual frameworks were quickly recalibrated and I found that I could remain submerged for longer, making work that hit the spot over and over again. 

Campanology, 2020. Acrylic on unstretched unprimed canvas,  365 x 274 cm

Music, or more precisely the cacophonous roar of rock ‘n’ roll and the atonal bleeps and squawks of electronic dance music, is a hinterland of self-taught, untrained, born to do it losers and last-ditch saloon pinups. Popular music has always been the call to arms for the dispossessed, the renegades and the mavericks; a place where drop-outs and ne’er-do-wells can find a voice and a purpose. Painting, on the other hand, for all its rebellious spirit, remains tethered to the post of its own history. Artists and curators remain shackled to the rarefied conversation of art history and speak with an almighty reverence as if it were one the earth’s most sacred religions. Of course, the fact that art matters is proven, but the processes and scene that surround art stagnate under its own weight and pomposity. 

JC, 2020. Acrylic on unstretched unprimed canvas, 365 x 274 cm

Since painting I HATE PAINTING I have found a new steam and propulsion to paint. Gone are the guilty feelings and the self-consciousness – even the paternal voices of distant teachers have been silenced. Painting has become something I do rather than something I respect. For me the respect was useless – it just made me nervous and unable to speak with a clear voice. To shout words into a void, you must first dare to hear those words without fear of being heard. The need to be heard but not wanting to care about being heard is an eternal paradox that the artist must unravel and try to resolve. 

The Illuminated Garden, 2020. Acrylic on linen, 61 x 51 cm 

Currently I am working on large 12ft by 6ft canvases, unstretched and unprimed – it would seem that ‘un-ness’ is extremely important. In truth, they are not artist-quality canvases but canvas tarpaulins I found in an online DIY store. This is significant as it connects to my need to exist outside of art – even if such notions are fanciful or overstated. My practice has shifted from respectful to downright dirty with canvases strewn all over the studio floor with footprints left imprinted onto them. When they are finished they are folded quickly and set aside; I like the creases and the stretchmarks of their struggle to survive. I don’t hate painting but I do hate the restrictions encoded within it. I dislike the discourse that surrounds it and move with increased urgency towards a method that uses disrespect and antagonism as a fuel for the creative drive towards unknown destinations.

Deux, 2020,  acrylic on linen, 40 x 50 cm

Behind Closed Doors, 2020. Acrylic on unprimed unstretched canvas, 365 x 274 cm

Hannam Studied painting in Sheffield in the north of England and later graduated from Canterbury college of art in the late 1980’s. He was tutored by Mali Morris (RA)  and Dennis Creffield (Bomberg school) and won several prestigious drawing prizes including the ‘The Chris Alexander drawing prize in 1987. 

 

Hannam moved to  the Northeast of England in the late 80’s and continued to paint. Heavily influenced by the St Ives School and early twentieth century European painting, particularly Matisse, Derain. Marquet and Picasso he set about making new work. Hannam was offered an apprenticeship with elderly Scottish impressionist Tom Watt who he worked closely with until Watts death in 1989. Hannam struggled to maintain his practice after Watts death with little money or studio access he made the decision to stop painting and develop his musical career. He moved to London in the early 1990’s to become a professional recording and touring musician which became the sole focus of his creative life for the next 10 years. His band Gramme went on to be hugely influential both in the UK and US.

 

By 2002 Hannam had started painting again and eventually moved to the south coast of England, where he is now more established as a contemporary British painter and continues to live and work in Rye.

All images courtesy the artist.

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