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Olaf Hanel: About and around and otherwise

  • Where: Vaclav Havel Library, Řetězová 7, Prague
  • When: June 3, 2014, 19:00 – June 28, 2014, 18:00

Opening of exhibition of work by Olaf Hanel.

Music: Šporkovo trio – Antonín Rejcha, Trio B major for two horns and bassoon,

Zuzana Bandúrová, flute: Marián Zavarský, Talking to the Silver God




3. 6. 2014 – 28. 6. 2014


A painter, graphic artist, sculptor, curator and art critic, Olaf Hanel (born 1943, Prague) is one of the leading representatives of Czech action art of the 1970s and 1980s. From 1960 to 1965 he studied at a teaching college in Pardubice. Between 1967 and 1970 he was director of the Gallery of Visual Art in Havlíčkův Brod, where he prepared shows for the likes of Ladislav Novák, Bohdan Lacina, Naděžda Plíšková and Bohuslav Reynek. It was in this period that he began creating his own conceptual projects. Following a move to Prague in 1971 he became part of the circle around the Crusaders’ School of Pure Humour Without Jokes, whose members also took part in his events. After signing Charter 77 he was employed as a water pumper and stoker. In February 1979 he emigrated to Vienna, from where he moved to Canada’s Montreal six months later. There, between 1982 and 1983, he worked occasionally as a printer from Sixty Eight Publishers. He created land art sculptures and began painting. In 1990 he moved back to Prague, where for almost 20 years he worked as curator of the Czech Museum of Fine Arts.

Olaf Hanel’s early work is linked to humorous drawings and caricatures. Drawing also influenced his later work, specifically conceptual events in which he worked with linear constructions and graphic ideas. In the mid-1970s he ceased doing action art for political reasons and began looking for new means of expression. A visit to the southern French town of Vence was a formative moment; there, inspired by the creative genius loci and local vegetation, he began producing abstract paintings employing a kinetic method.

The exhibition About and Around and Otherwise presents acrylic paintings by Hanel from the last 20 years inspired by just these experiences of the landscape. They are present in two aspects. The first depicts the world of nature, organic movement, growth and demise and constantly transforming energy. Against a background of random colour stains, the prototype for which was the artist’s experience of vistas of foliage, centrifugal and centripetal spirals, dynamic circles and ovals swirl about. In the second of them this natural world comes up against the objective world. By means of projections and cutouts from masking tape, randomly selected subjects leave nothing but silhouettes, impressions of form against a dappled background of chaos.

Though perhaps it may not seem so at first glance, these acrylic paintings have a great deal in common with Hanel’s early actions. Their Pollock-style creation is based on kinetic energy and a temporal dimension, while they also contain a Dadaist principle, playing with words and meaning. In one painting from a triptych depicting bells, that subject is brought out in silhouette and with it, following the model of a descriptive scheme, appear the words crown, hood, neck, referring to its individual parts. This is Hanel’s central theme: the feud of rationality and descriptiveness with the elemental ungraspability of the world. At the same time, they can have shapes and subject matter that is of symbolic tone or ritual function.

Marianna Placáková


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