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Hanjo Schmidt
About this artwork
acrylic on canvas
h.120cm w.100cm d.0cm
May 2010

Hanjo's Description: Portrait

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helen perez

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2010-05-08 14:50

For more than 40 years Karl has been my closest friend. He once was my professor in architecture and later became my friend and in the course of time even a kind of father figure for me. He died 2006, two weeks prior to his 100th anniversary, and I am still miss him badly. So yesterday I took my time to paint him after a photograph I took when he was at the age of 93.

2010-05-08 16:53

Hanjo - now that some of us have gotten to know, respect, and feel, in some way, close to you, I'm sure we would like to understand Karl's qualities - that made him become your closest friend (and possibly give you a small opportunity for some little tribute to your erstwhile professor). Many thanks.

2010-05-09 20:41

I missed your contributions in AP, but I see that was worth waiting.

Thank you very much for sharing with us your Karl´s picture. It is a face that conveys great energy. It is very strong in their facial features and at the same time very fragile in the brightness of his eyes. For its emotional intensity it recalls the portraits by Van Gogh.

I agree with John-Paul that it is a picture of someone who we would wish to have met.

I could not find a better example to illustrate my comment to the picture by Alejandro Cabezas. If our painting is not an expression tool then it will become just a game, a show of empty virtuosity. Thanks a lot.

2010-05-11 20:15

Hello dear. We have long talked about criticism and being honest and so on. Most of the examples of honest negative opinions we have expressed have been addressed to people we haven’t met in person and some times I think we sort of didn’t dare do it with our friends.

Ok, this introduction was because I really want to tell you that I don’t like this painting. It looks like you have really been lazy here. Too many areas painted with the same patches of colour as if it didn’t matter what colours were used. Sorry XXS but the comparison with Van Gogh was a little too hasty. And we can discuss it if you like. Honestly my friend I think you have much better work than this. Beware of technical effects taking over painting.

There I said it.

P.S. Guys do we really care about a sitter’s qualities when we look at a painting?

2010-05-12 00:33

Well my dear, let me start with a preamble, too. I do appreciate your honesty, I really do, for that’s the fundament of any talk that matters. And I do appreciate that you do not sit in the background thinking this or that for yourself but standing here and speak it out aloud. That’s indeed a very good thing and a very curageous one as well. Why? I guess that the reason that we do this honest criticizing so very seldom if ever isn’t only to be shy of hurting the other one but also to be afraid of getting back a punch on one’s own nose.

Okay then, first of all it’s perfectly in order if you don’t like the painting in question. And it’s only natural that you have your reasons for this discontent. But now that you offered some of them let me ask you a few questions. So what are you criticizing? Laziness in the first place. Then that too many areas have the same patches of colour. And you add: “as if it didn’t matter what colours were used”. This is an argument I do not understand. From where do you know which colours are appropriate for this very face? Do you really think that there should have been more blue in it or a greenish hue in some parts or some more yellow? Have you ever seen the model’s face? And what do you think is the reason that makes us paint a portrait? To please an audience? To deliver the perfect example in painting theory? And what is painting theory anyway? What’s the right way of painting? Can you tell me that?

Well, I prefer to have a personal reason for to paint a particular portrait for I usually don’t do it as a commission. And the only thing I am interested in when doing it is to catch as much as possible of the personality of the sitter or what the sitter means to me or just what interests me in this head or its facial expression. And in this moment I’m not at all interested in questions like if it has something to do with van Gogh or whomever else or if there are better paintings I have done etc. etc. And by the way, isn’t it very different what different people find better or best?

To end with, I do not understand what you mean with “technical effects taking over painting”. What’s painting for you? And do you think that everybody has to follow your understanding of painting for not to be accused of mere technical effects? Well, and how comes that you think that “a sitter’s qualities” doesn’t matter that much in a portrait? Is the combination of different colours and they way how they are applied to the canvas the only thing that matters out of all in a portrait? Okay, now it’s your turn.

2010-05-14 00:07

I have to disagree with you Maria, in the first place, I do recall writing a negative comment on paintings I didn’t like, and saying why, in this webpage, in particular to Hanjo and to Hillel. Two persons I consider very good friends of mine, and whom I admire profoundly.
Writing about an artwork is always risky, art is such a subjective matter…there are too many things in it that cannot be explained with reason. Of course there is composition, brush work, plasticity in the use of colors, etc, but we all know that there are things beyond that, that can be seen but cannot be easily explained. I have to be absolutely sure about a friend, to really make a negative comment to his work, I would try to avoid it with a stranger.
So answering your last question, well not that we as observers can judge a painting by the qualities of the sitter, but we can get a good idea of them and of how the painter reacts to them, (which is also interesting). As a painter, to me, it does matter, in the sense that the more the face expresses the more I get involved in it. I easily get bored of a shallow face. Most of the portraits I admire have this psychological insight , the painter “sees” more than just a surface, more than just the hues in the skin, and somehow manages to tell us something about that human being, without words. Sometimes the artist strives to depict just the opposite, a lack of expression and individuality but then what we see is a mask or a kind of frozen sphinx.
This portrait is far from being a sphinx, one can easily read a tinge of disappointment in the old man who’s inner strength still refuses to go, the skull is powerful, the eyes intelligent, his gaze drifts inside his thoughts, or memories. . I cannot understand the word “lazy” referring to anything in it. I got used to enlarging the images very much in order to really “see” the brush work and the movement of the hand in Hanjo’s paintings, because they are usually very big, and if you take a close look at it you will see an incredibly vital activity and tension, patches of colors that explode in different directions like fireworks and that nevertheless construct not only the boney structure but also the psychology of the human being he was so fond of. I love color, and it drives me crazy when painting, but the plasticity of the portrait not always depends on the number of hues, and if you take a look at Van Goghs self portraits, you will see that some are made with a great variety of colors and hues, but some aren’t. Not that I’m comparing anything, but maybe this portrait just didn’t need all those colors we usually expect in a Hanjo Schmidt. To me the portrait not only has Hanjo’s usual imprint, in the vehement brush work, and in the way it irradiates energy, but it is also a good study of expression in which he shows a profound human insight. For me, this is important.

2010-05-14 08:43

I will soon answer my friends, with details on what I said about this painting. I just have to take a short trip and when I am back I will tell you all about what I have in mind. love to all.

2010-05-14 14:27

Dear Maria,

Based on your words in the comment, I get the idea that you don't find it important that the painter has an emotive connection with the motive. Van Gogh had it- you will agree. Excuse me if I've gone back to use the name of Van Gogh in vain.

You are free to think as you want, without a doubt, the contemporary art won the right of the artists to dictate their own rules. Of course I will wait for your return and will be happy to discuss our points of view with a non-dogmatic and open mind. Wouldn't it be great if we could do it having a beer in the Populart??


2010-05-16 15:14

John-Paul, to answer your question I will quote from a story by J.D. Salinger Karl would have liked.

Duke Mu of Chin said to Po Lo: “You are now advanced in years. Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?” Po Lo replied: “A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse — one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks — is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air. The talents of my sons lie on a lower plane altogether; they can tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse. I have a friend, however, one Chiu-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior. Pray see him.” Duke Mu did so, and subsequently dispatched him on the quest for a steed. Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one. “It is now in Shach’iu” he added. “What kind of a horse is it?” asked the Duke. “Oh, it is a dun-colored mare,” was the reply. However, someone being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion! Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo. “That friend of yours,” he said, “whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a fine mess of it. Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast’s color or sex! What on earth can he know about horses?” Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction. “Has he really got as far as that?” he cried. “Ah, then he is worth ten thousand of me put together. There is no comparison between us. What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism. In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external. He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see. He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at. So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.” When the horse arrived, it turned out indeed to be a superlative animal.

2010-06-02 16:52

The other day I found a text by German painter Johannes Grützke that describes perfectly what I think painting is for me. And for I like this description so much I translated it into what I think might be taken for English while trying to keep some of his personal style of writing. Okay, this way all of you can read it. It goes like this:

At the beginning there is the sight. In the eye the sight becomes an impression and goes throught the eye in the head, from there in the arm that holds the brush and takes it down like a seismograph so it becomes the expression. That would be fine!

In the brain the impression is object to several influences. It gets “enriched” with orders, criteria, judgements and wrong corrections. The brain knows better than the eye, it thinks. The brain isn’t willing to believe some things the eye sees. The brain has prejudices. It doesn’t like some things. The brain doesn’t see what the eye does. The brain orders the eye to see what it ought to see for the eye is the slave of the brain not the other way round.

The painter now has nothing else to do as to clean the impression from those falsifications the brain added to it. The painter wants to preserve and express the true and independent impression. He wants to paint what he sees and not what he ought to see. He wants to dedicate himself to the sight without brainly reservations. He wants the sight pure and not as the authority of his brain permits it to be.

The painter has to make it plain to the brain that its definitions reduce and that they are limited. And that in the case of and for the purpose of true depiction these limitations must be recognized and overcome. Perhaps the whole system of definitions must be teared down.

That’s hard work. Tough struggle! Unfortunately it’s only going step by step not in one rush for the brain does not let itself be deprived of power voluntarily. It fights back, sometimes with all refinements.

The bad thing is that out of principle the impression cannot bypass the brain for the tool eye only functions sensible through the brain’s ability to read. The brain needs the eye for it’s own orientation to serve the body for that’s the reason the body has a brain.

The painter however has an extensive interest, a curiosity, that goes beyond the function of his body. His eye shall see more than the body needs. This is what the eye does first of all though. The sight is pure and the impression shall be pure as well.

The painter has to convince his brain to reduce the necessities of its system to the function of the body only. For instance to keep balance, to notice that it is darkening soon or that a hostile dog is approaching.

When this was successful everything is won. Now the eye is seeing only. It sees that in front of it a brightness is becoming darker at its right side (it’s a wall of the room with a shadow on it), further right there comes a rosy brightness that changes with dark red darknesses (an ear) green-yellow brightnesses (shaved beard and cheek bone) rosy darknesses, above yellow brightness etc. (in short, it may be a head in a room.) Now the eye doesn’t recognize but only see. The brain contains itself and has given up to identify and to interpret. Now the eye follows the things gaze by gaze. It follows the folds of the cartilage in their elegant bending in the same speed as the brush at the arm can take it down. The observation is dedicated. It lives from its intensity. What’s taken down is reference of what’s observed.

2011-01-02 17:29

I saw the works of Hanjo allready earlier and I am glad to discover them here on ArtProcess.

2012-08-15 20:01

I'm a fan!!


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