Kendal Hanna’s “Happy Birthday To Me”

By Ashley Knowles

Currently on exhibition at the National Art Gallery is Kendal Hanna’s Retrospective Exhibition, “Happy Birthday To Me”. Spanning work from his near-60 year career, the exhibition features over 140 pieces ranging from Hanna’s psychologically intense portraits, his classic nude studies, and compelling abstract expressionist pieces. Curated by Dr. Erica M. James, the exhibition opened on the 25th of June 2011 and will sadly end in January 2012, so visit while you can!

First, let’s discuss the background of the artist, who was born on the 25th of June 1936 in Nassau, New Providence. Hanna is touted as a pioneer of Bahamian abstract expressionism. Having always known that he wanted to be an artist, Hanna first furthered his interests in art in primary school. His dreams did not begin to take shape until a fortuitous meeting with American artist, John St. John who soon after encouraged and mentored Hanna. Later, after a brief stint at the Post Office, Hanna became the first Bahamian artist to sign on to work at the famous Chelsea Pottery.

Hanna’s experiences at Chelsea Pottery forever altered the course of his life. There, he received his first formal art training. Hanna was also exposed to a number of influential Bahamian artists, many who nurtured his burgeoning abstract style by giving him the opportunity to travel to the United States. The rest of Hanna’s story is essentially history, as he started creating art at a rapid pace. Today, Hanna is a renowned Bahamian artist both locally and internationally. Hanna is also fortunate to have his work represented in many key private collections and the National Collection of The Bahamas.

When it comes to making art, Hanna is not as free spirited and abstract as his pieces are. From the moment a piece is conceived, Hanna spends a great deal of time composing it in his head. Fascinated with the process of art making, Hanna is a detailed planner and can spend a long period of time on a single piece. Visually, Hanna’s work is deeply psychological and personal which depicts his absorption with representation and self-representation. Known as the Master of the Line, every stroke and line in Hanna’s paintings are charged with meaning, representing formal artistic processes and the state of his emotional consciousness at the time. When asked about his art, Hanna’s response reflects his emotional ties to his work:

My experience as an artist has led me to many truths. The works you witness in this exhibition bear witness to where I stand. I am an abstract artist and I commit myself to its resolution. My work is a testimony of my faith, as a man of my time. Amen.

Works Cited

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Happy Birthday To Me Kendal Hanna: A Retrospective. Nassau: The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, 2011. Print.
This book is available at the NAGB Art Library and available for purchase at the Mixed Media Gallery Store.

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The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Happy Birthday To Me Kendal Hanna: A Retrospective. Nassau: The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, 2011. Print.