Water, sand and rocks

Kijkende rots (1995) Kijkende rots (1992) Travelling chastens Hans Landsaat. Until the 1980’s his work was more or less stylized and controlled. This changed after Hans had experienced the overwhelming Australian landscape. His work became looser and emotions claimed a more prominent place, according to Rob Perrée (see "The art of doubting").
Franz K. - 9 Het Proces     Do the artist and his public then distance themselves from the earlier work? Definitely not. Recently the Prints Cabinet of the University of Leiden attained 19 screenprints inspired by Franz Kafka’s work (1975). These prints are not illustrations, conservator Eva Vreeburg explains, but the images do evoke the atmosphere of Kafka’s prose. (see "Prints of Hans Landsaat").
    Hans himself does not differentiate between past and present. "I started painting. And however far my work sometimes distanced itself from the directly visible, it never lost contact with reality. What we see, however, is merely one of the many facets of the infinite truth which we will probably never be able to comprehend." He challenges the truth, as is apparent in the leporello Travelling backwards. Illustratively he confided to Margriet Kruyver: "Travelling backwards allows you to choose from what you see and to hold on to it until it gradually disappears behind the horizon. Life itself is actually a journey proceeding backwards. You can’t look into the future, and looking backwards you can calmly contemplate on everything you have seen and experienced." (See "Travelling Backwards".)

Achterwaarts reizen - leporello

Born in 1935, Hans grew up in Amsterdam-South, close to the prominent Olympic Stadium built by Jan Wils in 1926. It is conceivable that this building at the edge of town was a beacon for the visually gifted young Hans. However, his horizons were not limited to this concrete colossus.
    Two enormous, almost coïncidental, events were soon to dominate his young life; the death of his father when he was 4 and the outbreak of the 2nd WW in 1940. Initially Hans remained behind with his older sister and mother, who kept the invisible presence of his father alive. After 1942 many relatives, evacuated from Zeeland, came to live in the ever more crowded house on the Hercules Street. When it got too busy he fled, on foot, seeking the city-edge, to the sandy wastelands where the suburb of Buitenveldert would later arise and to the other side of the Amstelveenseweg, where the water of the Schinkel, with its tiny sluices, determined the landscape. The wasteland behind the Stadium where Hans explored, seemed to him to be endless.
Voorbijgangers (1969)     After primary school Hans attended the Reformed Lyceum and continued his education at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, then called the Amsterdamse Kunstnijverheidschool. He specialized in graphic design, an artform to which – besides other artforms – he has always remained true. Hans did not immediately choose to become an artist but worked as an employee for several years. He also painted. In his early work from the 1960’s the human figure is still prominently present. Later he playfully depicts an enlarged detail, sometimes divided over two or three surfaces.

At the end of the 1950’s Hans married the love of his youth, Tineke, and they had 3 children, 2 sons and a daughter. In 1978 he met Joanne, his new life partner. With her he shares the need or – if you like – the necessity, to travel. Or, in Hans’words “to get to know the unknown, to discover a relationship between the unknown and the known”. Hans’s yearning for unknown landscapes coincides with Joanne’s longing for Australia where she grew up. It took a while though before the Europe-bound artist gave himself over and travelled to the fifth continent. Derby Pier Squared Cahier (1998)The result is obvious, as is apparent from his oeuvre from 1988 till 2000, which is exclusively inspired by that distant land. The pier in Derby, in the northwest of Australia, the “end of the world”, formed the highlight of one of these journeys. The memory endured and when the idea of setting up a small publishing firm arose, the name was soon decided. Consequently, artists such as Jan van der Pol, Henri Plaat, Mareike Geijs and others, who were asked to take part with a publication, have a lasting connection with a pier behind which the sun sets dramatically. In 1998 on the instigation of John Loose, by way of homage to the pier, the 6th publication was produced, Derby Pier Squared Cahier, in which Hans and Joanne combined texts and photos of Derby Pier.

Aan de Schelde (detail), 1998-2000 Aan de Schelde (1998-2000) After 2000 the Zeeland landscapes, which Hans knows inside out, once more found a place in his work.
    It is undeniable that Hans allows his public and colleagues to partake of his impressions and, being a gifted story-teller, of bizar human situations in which he has been involved either close to home or on distant shores. Taklamakan 6 - penseeltekening, 2007 In his notes on paper or canvas, originating during or after his travels, the human figure is no longer evident. The black and white notes resulting from his latest journey through China in 2007, could be associated with symbols rather than actual drawings. The later polychrome brush-drawings are more communicative.
    He commands the art of omitting as no other and at the same time an undeniable exuberance is apparent. The feeling of being absorbed by nature, a cosmic experience, is what he wants to share with us. And, in recent work, there is room for the unknown known, referring to the rich culture of China, which we recognise from prints, sculpture and calligraphy. Een trap in de bergen - aquarel (2007) De dood, het licht (1997) His earlier experiences in Australia also allowed us to not only get acquainted with the landscape, but offered a glimpse of the mythical world of the Aborigines, thanks to the somewhat crumpled-up embryo-like small figure cropping-up here and there. This image, which had appeared in earlier work, was derived from a memory of his father’s coffin which the small boy, just able to look over the windowsill through a slit in the curtains, saw passing by in the hearse. Here, too, the mantra, to find the known in the unknown, is applicable.

Hans collects impressions in small sketchbooks, which, once back in the studio, form a goldmine of ideas from which he draws his inspiration, gallery owner, Josine Bokhoven reveals to us.
    How Hans observes, reads and consequently converts his thoughts into images can be derived from the bibliophile books in which he reacts to a poem or prosa by way of a drawing. Or, the other way round, when he links a text to one of his sketches.
    And then there are the stories he tells his friends, for instance about the tango concert in Amsterdam’s Theatre Carré. Beautiful music and a virtuoso pianist, but that arm, that was so fascinating. It turns out that from the beginning Hans was fascinated by the famous artist’s right arm, which was extraordinarily long. With many embellishments, which made it easy for me to imagine, he told us about the way in which the fingers tried to reach the lower registers in a furious tempo. Imagine... no, Hans did not actually illustrate it, but it was possible – a horizontal line with, on the right, a few shapes reminiscent of piano keys. What colour would he have painted the keys? A fiery red one could associate with the tango?

Koos Levy - van Halm
September 2009