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When looking at great work of art, the element of mystery is often crucial to the enhancement of the artwork’s expressive potential. The purposely unfinished, suggests openness, dynamism and hidden meanings, especially within the stage of symbolic figurative painting. Luke Hannam researches deeply within the iconography of the Old Testament, creating untold stories, which are there to be completed by the viewer’s imagery and personal experience. 

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Born in 1966 and currently living in East Sussex, UK, Luke Hannam spent his upbringing studying the works of the earlier masters. While his generation was giving in completely to the conceptual flow of the 1980s, Hannam focused mainly on studying the potential of the Great Masters’ lessons, aiming to enhance the expressive potential of his drawing skills. 

His works show a mature attention to the past, using a number of references to enhance the elements of storytelling that are suggested by the subjects and their composition. Working mainly with acrylic paint, Hannam creates images of extremely powerful presence, in which vivid colour tones are combined with a clever usage of the outline, allowing his knowledge about the expressive element of drawing to break free and take advantage of the canvas’ space, in order to evolve into something meaningful.


Luke Hannam, Heavenly Bodies, 2020. Acrylic on canvas.


Besides all of the reflections that could be made concerning the meanings and tales that the artist engages into when creating his paintings, an interesting aspect can be observed when thinking of the openness of the images that Hannam puts before our eyes. 

As the artist explains himself, a great work of art does not present itself to the viewer as a completed statement, or a dictation, it is the result of the artist’s work until that specific moment when the painter knows he “has to stop”. A masterpiece doesn’t explain itself fully, it whispers and mumbles to the viewer about something vague, apparently mysterious and Romantic, yet attractive and there to for the observer to unveil it. 

“Certainly, one of the arts of painting is knowing when to stop and knowing when to let the painting suggest rather than dictate. I think that's the really nice thing about great work: it doesn't dictate, it mumbles to you, and you interpret the mumbles".


Luke Hannam, The Compass and The Rosary, 2020. Acrylic on canvas.


This element of openness and mystery activates Luke Hannam’s paintings, allowing them to communicate to the observer about something continuously different and always “in becoming”. Both the painter, when creating the work, and the viewer, when solving the composition, must let go to the unknown in order to get in touch with the essence of the image and fully understand it.

"I think most people who are creating things aren't the last to understand their work, but they're not the first either. You're being driven by a visceral sort of light in the dark: you don't know the meaning of things necessarily, that comes to you later"

In contemporary painting, Romanticism and mystery seem to have yet again found their place within the expressive stage, filling the gap left by the world’s shift towards full positiveness. Luke Hannam serves himself of past greatness, creating beauty through vagueness and meaningful appearances. 


Luke Hannam, An Epic Tale of Love and Loss, 2021. Acrylic on canvas.


Luke Hannam, Elijah’s Vision, 2020. Acrylic on canvas.


Cover image:  Luke Hannam, A Young Maiden’s Voyage, 2021. Acrylic on canvas.

Written by Mario Rodolfo Silva

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