Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Stuart Hahn

hahnfristpage

Annunciation (graphite) 1978

Stuart Hahn’s influence on graphic design in Trinidad and Tobago cannot be overstated, and in doing so my first encounter with his work was Ti Jean and his Brothers. (Paria Publishing) when I was still going to high school in the 1980’s. I recall not just going through the book, but studying the illustrations knowing that I was looking at a real master illustrator. My understanding of his skill did not just come from instinct. I had been very interested in the works of Alfonse Mucha, Aubrey Beardsley and Erte. So I was coming from an interest in Art Nouveau. What struck me right away with Stuart Hahn’s work was his ability to own his technique fully. What I mean by this is that it is obvious that all artists are influenced by styles or particular artists.

What Stuart shows in his work is an interest with representing a Caribbean people. So he is not just influenced by a style or artist, but rather the pursuit of finding and making people of colour see themselves, an intellectual level, the desire to form his own narratives about space and place. His place, ‘Trinidad,’ his peoples, ‘Trinidadians.” It is unfair to talk about his work without perhaps considering another contemporary artist, American Kara Walker. Her work is more subversive and in your face. Not at all where Stuart chooses to go. His are pastoral, dignified sequences filled with pride, joy and respect for the environment. Yet comparisons with Walker are appropriate because her work and his take on the similar degree of understanding of anatomy of the black body/white body – the gestures of illustration aesthetics, eg; the two middle fingers bent gently to look poetic, the slightly puckered lips, the contrapposto of the posed figure. They both understand the relevance of history, poetry, literature and illustration.

The fact that Stuart is a White Trinidadian and Kara Walker an African American makes the comparisons all the more mindful because it is tempting to throw one’s mind back and forth through history trying to understand what makes a white man and a black woman draw from a past riddled in so much raw emotion yet come out on the other side so differently. And perhaps that is just it. Art does this to us. It helps us see a myriad of experiences none right or wrong. However my point is not to simplify Stuart Hahn’s abilities as the artist he is.

Over a thirty-year career he has been part of the invisible highbred between graphic design and fine art and has never compromised his standards. Rare in a country where compromise is almost inevitable and standards are on a sliding scale. He is at heart an illustrator who understands that the quality of his work is such that making distinctions will not stop the process of doing. Let others debate – the work is there to be done. – Adele 2005

hahns

Parcifal (graphite) 1977

Stuart Hahn was born in Nevis in the West Indies in 1949. He was educated in Barbados and Trinidad, and worked in Advertising as a graphic illustrator/artist for about fourteen years before becoming a full-time fine artist in 1984. He is the illustrator of three books: The selfish Geni, Tales of the Paria Main Road, and Ti-jean and His Brothers (By Derek Walcott). His work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows locally and internationally. He now lives in the Santa Cruz Valley in Trinidad’s Northern mountain range on an old cocoa estate with his mother, four cats and two Rottweilers. He is the only artist in the Caribbean to work exclusively in coloured pencils. Adele 2005

See the entire 10 pages covering his body of work. thebookmann Stuart Hahn 2005 Pdf format 1.5mb

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