“THIS makes me sound like Tarzan,” says artist Luke Hannam, midway through explaining his current exhibition, The Secrets of Nature. He’s joking but you can see where he’s coming from. As the name of his exhibition suggests, his artistic preoccupation is with the wonders of the natural world.

It’s not that Hannam wants to walk like the animals, talk like the animals – to quote another family movie – but rather his aim is to immerse himself in nature without imposing himself; to “leave the modern world and enter a different realm”.

“As I’ve been working on this collection, it’s dawned on me that a lot of the work is about poetic synergies in nature. The flower as seen by the bee, for instance. It’s about primary relationships, rather than human relationships with nature as such.” Hannam is trying to form a “primal” connection with the elements, moving beyond the “intellectual” response we usually have to the world around us.

He acknowledges that he is still thinking when walking in the woods and getting inspiration but insists he is attempting to “evoke something which is almost not of thought – the work is lustful and fleshy in a primal way”. The artist has an interest in gothic folk tales and the Black Forest in Germany, the “real place which symbolises the fears of humanity”. Indeed, fear is one of the most dominant sensations in Hannam’s working process.

In his introduction to The Secrets of Nature, he claims that “fear makes me feel more vividly”. Today, he adds: “I enjoy the fear you might feel when walking in the woods at night. Not because I feel I’m at risk but because my mind processes change from intellectual and human to instinctive and animal. I’m attracted to that. I think fear makes people become something different compared to when you’re sitting in your car going to work.”

Hannam cites popular children’s picture book Where The Wild Things Are – which was later made into a successful film – as an example of a story in which a character has to find his way “in an elemental world where you have an intrinsic purpose”.

In literature on the topic, the so-called “sublime” is used as a term to denote the wonder yet terror of nature. Hannam says he finds nature “reassuring” in its eternality.

About Luke Hannam 

HANNAM graduated from Canterbury College of Art in 1987. His art has occasionally taken a backseat as he juggles it with his band Gramme but a move to Rye proved the impetus for his return to painting.

He said: “I’m still a professional musician. It was very attractive to be in a band and be part of a gang. Painting got left behind, but the last ten years I’ve started to paint more and more. I moved down to Rye with my family six years ago with the ambition to just paint. I’ve come out from the woods as an artist now. It was a bit random, our decision to move to Sussex.

“I didn’t know much about the area but I’ve managed to rent myself a very large studio. There are a lot of creative people in East Sussex outside of Brighton. “There are no distractions. You can be totally anonymous in Rye, as opposed to looking over your shoulder in London all the time.”

Luke Hannam: The Secrets of Nature, Cameron Contemporary Art, Second Avenue, Hove, until March 27, Call 01273 727234 or visit cameroncontemporaryart.com for more information