Christoph Hassler, a.k.a.Stohead, is one of these artists for whom painting is a never-ending search. At the beginning of his career, 27 years ago, when he discovered graffiti, he was struck by a specific dimension of this practice: the tag, which is the calligraphic aspect of graffiti. He discovered how to represent letters with a stroke and to string the characters
together one after the other. And as tag aficionados know, you can tell a good graffiti artist by
the way he tags. Inspiration, movement, energy and coherence are all what makes the
beauty of the tag, which is often illegible. The creative dimension of the tag is completely lost on neophytes who find that graffiti is artistic only when it is “pretty”.
Yes, the tag can be aggressive. It is a signature left quickly on a corner of a wall whose only
purpose is to say that its writer was there. And it is meant only for the artist’s peers: the
public is not invited to decipher or like it. However, the tag often takes its practitioners on to calligraphy. Fascinated by the many - infinite – possibilities of representing a single letter with one or more strokes, the tagger can morph into an expert calligrapher by dint of technical experimentation. Just as the graffiti artist is not automatically a painter, the tagger is not necessarily a calligrapher. And talent alone will not make an artist without hard work.
Stohead has understood all this and has learnt this throughout his career. Without ever
giving up on the tagger/graffiti artist in him, he rapidly decided to transpose his calligraphic universe on canvas. Today, with another excellent graffiti artist, the Dutch artist Shoe, he is credited with the coining of the term "Calligraffiti". However, unlike Shoe, and unlike most artists who started out as graffiti artists and now do calligraphy on canvas - Stohead soon got tired of the egocentric aspect of writing, preferring to dot his paintings with bits of songs or quotations from books or films. Sometimes, he would even use a single word, written once or several times, on a painting: 'Intoxication', 'Over Over Over', 'NOW'. Depending on the environments in which they were placed, these words could give different meanings to the painting. During his initial experimentation, Stohead based his calligraphic work on the impact of words as well as on the strong visual effect created by the contrast between a plain, solid, dark or colourful background and a sharp, bright and animated writing, obtained with the use of totally different basic colours. Warm and cool tones, black and whites, very thick and dripping strokes made with tools created specially by the artist that saturate a canvas with such a “calm” background with paint. ...Impact, as always.
Impact was also used when Stohead noticed that after all the work done in his workshop
there were stains on the floor from the mixtures of the different colours and inks that he had used during his calligraphic experimentations. He first took pictures of these stains and later succeeded in reproducing them. Experimentation had coincided with the fortuitous dimension to which all creators must one day adapt. By adding them to his calligraphies, Stohead turned these stains into clouds of smoke, which finally became the point where his letters started or faded away. Little by little, the sentences disappeared and the vapours filled up the paintings. After that, came the period of "Decompositions". A mysterious technique that gave an amazing result. Here again, impact was key. Stohead took us into the heart of his fascinating paintings, as fascinating as watching the movement of clouds or the effect of dilution: the intermingling of layers, transparency, matter and contrasts. Form and substance were there for spectators who wanted to throw themselves into the works and project their mood and emotions onto them. Nothing was imposed on the spectator. The resonance of the phrases and words had disappeared. Stohead left the scene and gave full rein to the imagination. And then, still for experimentation purposes and because nothing was final or to be taken for granted since his departure, Stohead felt the need to come and push his clouds open. Maybe to add a source of balance to them. Maybe to add recognisable and tangible shapes that would stabilise the compositions. Because his work, from pure calligraphy, is a matter of balance. Balance of letters in their sequence on the canvas, hanging balance of the clouds and vapours that swirl from one end of the painting to another. Fragile balance of a composition that combines the lightness of evanescence to the straightness of the lines. Like the lines of a mark in a chart... playing with their clouds, these lines are reminiscent of the black structures of Tinguely’s “useless modules”, that link elements among each other without being the main attractions of the composition. Stohead gradually takes us from Decomposition to Recomposition. Today, he is bringing the elements together. Far from being a jumble where calligraphy, liquid or hazy effects and breaking line are put together, Stohead is proposing works that have a common characteristic: the search for a new harmony. It is a balance between his different works, all present in paintings that come together to form the Recomposition. And paradoxically, it is simplicity that triumphs here. The rapid movement, uses simple shapes in bright colours that materialise hours, or even years of thinking, waiting and staring at the painting to find the right movement.
This is what Stohead is bringing to us here.