Hans Sieverding: Changing Views

Tenya Mastoras
Jun 3, 2016 6:23PM

 By Dr. Peter Joch, Director of Kunsthalle Darmstadt  

Hans Sieverding does not present the beholder with any homogeneous, clearly structured, one-dimensional world. Instead, he juxtaposes signs and realities, and spins veritable webs of pictorial content by means of over-painting, layering and superimposition. The literally multi-leveled picture planes are invariably abounding and often reveal wildly rampant landscapes, the flickering colour rhythm of which never relents. Sieverding employs these overflowing scenes to combine various levels of reality and artistic methods of portrayal in a single picture. Wonderfully elucidative of this effect is his painting Blue Tree. Presented here in the midground is a nearly altogether abstracted representation of a hill, built up of colour zones that have been slurred into one another. This planar area of the painting, with its continuous colour transitions, contrasts the hard, pastose ‘outline’ contours of a tree and a bush. Through this kind of dualism, Hans Sieverding conjoins the elements of colour and line—the two of which were viewed over centuries in art theory as antagonisms and, indeed, served as precepts for the development of separate artistic schools of thought.

In the paintings of Hans Sieverding, Colore and Disegno denote two commensurate representational systems, which, though allowed to permeate one another, still render the pictorial subject in two disparate ways. The great historical significance of the categories of Colore and Disegno has been particularly emphasized by Sieverding when employing his juxtaposition of painting and drawing to produce his interpretation of Édouard Manet’s famous painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, for example.

The artist also utilises his play with the two techniques, however, in order to link together ahistorical—timeless—fundamentals such as ‘material’ and ‘immaterial’. On the Third Day 2, for example, a ‘painted-in’, intensely solid-seeming representation of a lily dominates the background while a human figure appears in the foreground as a lightly hovering, silhouetty spectre. With this diaphanous figure, Sieverding engenders a transitional sphere—one of phantoms, which waft weightlessly over the material world.

Through this kind of superimposition of image planes, an ornamental space emerges, which is subject not to the logical order of central perspective but rather organised, through intimation, into planar levels. Thus the gaze of the beholder begins to hover as well. His principle of two-sided pictorial ambiguity is finally also utilised by Hans Sieverding, in a subtle manner, to explore psychological precedents. Thus Interpretation I presents the beholder, again before the heavily burdened blossoms and leaves of a lily, with an ethereal human figure in the foreground—this time a woman draped in the habiliments of Antiquity, who appears to be dancing. The painting, thereby, reflects projections with which the beholder might be wont to enshroud the world—the principle of fantasy, which, through its ability to produce free associations, confronts the world of things with its own light figures and thus, in its own particular manner, ‘interprets’.

Hans Sieverding’s combinations of fantastic visions with material realities necessarily break apart the classic procedure of organically embedding the figure within the pictorial space, as with the inclusion of staffage. In this regard, Scene 8 can be viewed as particularly programmatic. In the painting—again between a ‘drawn’ figure and a ‘painterly’ background—, a non-traversable chasm is unfurled, which severs the pictorial space and dissolves any conventional use of perspective.

In his planar paintings, Hans Sieverding does not, in principle, fix the figures at all but rather opens up airy spaces for them in which to move and play—reveals them as liberated souls, so to speak, which are no longer bound to the laws of the material world. He also lends further degrees of freedom to the human figure, finally, by producing rows of various viewing perspectives of single faces (Untitled 04.04.2012 and Untitled 15.04.2013), thus refraining from confining the figures to any single point of view. The beholder follows the play with the various pictorial elements and begins to observe the process by which the figures are no longer to be reduced to any single contours but rather pictorially circumscribed in a plurality of variations. Therewith, Sieverding’s art generates a dialogue between the various spatial levels in the painting and between the painting and the beholder as well. The artist continually includes the beholder in creating his layers and thus, by means of his artistic play, stages a permanent changing of perspectives. A portrayal with painted bodies and drawn silhouettes symbolically summarises this complex methodology even in its title. It is simply called Changing Views 3.

Tenya Mastoras