Book Reviews Non-Fiction
Kraft und Poesie -
Three artists, Three visions
By Jay Quabeck
Courage! The will to pursue a path that is unfashionable! These qualities are emblematic of three Austrian artists, who, although members of the Boomer Generation, have followed their inclination to avoided the temporary and instead, opted for the permanent.
These artists are new to me. Yet I am deeply touched by their work, their painterly craft, their will to stick to canvas and paper. Like my colleague Alidė Kohlhaas, I am tired of installations, of the impermanent, the fashionable rather than the substantive that current art trends inflict on the viewer.
Artists Hans Sisa, Eleonore Hettl and Wilhelm Kollar have come together in a book, Kraft und Poesie (Power and Poetry), which is subtitled Expressive Malerei (Expressive Painting). The book in itself is an expression of courage. It tells the reader and viewer that these artists are not afraid to be judged by a wider public.
Sisa, who in another life is also an opera singer (bass) and set designer, has the darkest vision of the three. He appears to be religious without being sanctimonious, embroiled with the past of his country, in-your face confrontational, a questioner of values past and present. His strokes on canvas or paper are operatic in their execution. There is something grand in his vision. He is the most figurative of the three painters, yet his landscapes also speak with a strong voice.
He is a superb watercolorist. His Gewitterstimmung (Stormy Mood) captures the moment to perfection. There is joy in his Impression, an abstracted bunch of flowers executed with powerful strokes, yet gentle touches. Here the poetry of the title of the book is very evident. Still, there is agony in most of his works, the agony of the human condition rendered with the raw power of the brush.
Hettl is a landscapist, although she does not shy away from the figure. Like Sisa, she is a fine watercolorist. It is somewhat hard to tell from the book whether her dark colors even in the lightest of scenes are a fault of reproduction or are her personal reality. Suffice it to say that her masterful strokes, her willful execution, avoid all sentimentality that can creep into landscape art. Yet, looking at her canvas Weinviertel bei Untergrub (Wine Region near Untergrub) there appears a lack of joy associated with the subject from other wine regions of the world. Is this intentional or is it fault of the reproduction? Hard to tell.
Her Winter bei Sarning (Winter near Sarning) expresses bleakness. For someone grown up in Canada, where winter invariably is associated with hardy joy, even in the farthest North, this sad image leaves one wonder, ' Why?' One thing is undeniable. No one can accuse Hettl of painting like 'a woman'. She offers no clue to her sex in her work. The subject is raised in the book. Gallery goers have certain expectations of female artists and Hettl does not fit into this misguided expectation.
Kollar is the most abstract in the execution of his works. Still, the figure creeps into scenes now and then, faintly yet never tentatively. His Dark Rain implies a bird covered in oil. It stands like a warning to us to care for the environment.
He is not afraid to mix media. There is acrylic and chalk, acrylic and oil stick, acrylic and oil paint, even egg tempera and chalk, all used to express emotions, often with sensual strokes and color. There is often a burning immediacy in his coloration, bedazzling the eye. There is also a profound poetic imagry in his work that touches hidden emotions.
The book offers some text in English next to the German. Kohlhaas's translation of the introduction and the postscript are excellent. The remainder by unknown translators could now and then have used a sharp editor's pen. But, still, the meaning can be extracted despite the occasional convoluted wording.
This is a book that serves the artists well. It gives them the exposure that all good art needs in a world more and more impermanent, and less and less inclined to look closely. In a world where everything is fleeting, Power and Poetry is a wonderful table book to cherish.
After Green Gables has been moved to Archives
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