Sunday, January 31, 2016

HANS HOFMANN: How It's Done!

"The significance of a work of art is determined then by the quality of its growth." Hans Hofmann

Hans Hofmann, Self-Portrait, 1902

Hans Hofmann understood this; an artist wears many hats. Many many hats. If paintings were made like films are these days, then each of these hats would have a title, like director, cinematographer, editor, casting director, costume design, sound editor, etc. A painter does all of these things. Maybe Rubens didn't, and maybe not Sol LeWitt, but Hans Hofmann and everybody else has made it part of the job.

Hans Hofmann, The Lark, 1960

The job of director vs cinematographer vs editor is particularly interesting. David Lean comes to mind as one of the few filmakers who found it impossible to separate these jobs. Hans Hofmann, the director, preached push and pull. Hans Hofmann the cinematographer and editor had to put that into practice. They had to walk the fine line between image and painting. They had to decide when one dictated the outcome over the other. Balance and timing.

Timing and balance. When did the image decide how the paint would lie? Push or pull? Flat, side by side, out in front, or in the back. When was it about the paint? When was it about the picture? The composition? The visual narrative? When was it important to maintain the mission? When were all bets off because only one thing mattered: the success and survival of the painting at hand?

Ultimately every painter knows this one rule above all others! Yes, the one rule above all, that the painting should fly! Or float! Or actualize! Become! Transform! Ascend! Transcend! Etc. Etc. Etc.

Hans Hofmann, Golden Autumn

AND YET, the painting still has to be true. Philosophically true. There is no success at the price of philosophical truth. Many a "successful" painting has been scraped down, overpainted or trashed because it tried to slip by as successful without being true. Therein lies the rub. And that is the director's job.

So when we look at Hans Hofmann's work we always somehow get one of his most famous hats: the teacher. We get a first hand tutorial on how it is done. No tricks, nothing up the sleeves, all out in front for all to see: yes, pay close attention, this is how a painting is made! This is how it is done!

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, 2016

Hans Hofman, High Summer, 1961

Hans Hofmann, Song of the Nightingale

No comments: