The text below is from the catalogue published by Listasavn
Føroya in connection to the exhibition
HANS PAULI OLSEN
REFLECTION AND SHADOW
The modelling is rough and rugged; it bears the rebellious and uninhibited finger marks of the artist. He works mainly in clay - the very stuff that Our Lord breathed life into, and from which we have all come. An important sculpture is »Selfportrait« 1989, in which the artist is standing with a big lump of clay in each hand. - You enjoy handling the clay?
- Yes, the clay is entirely
organic, it's up to me to decide how complete or incomplete it
should be, change about, and I can decide where and how the
light should fall.
The sculpture, »Spegling« (Reflection) 1990-91, stands outside the new art gallery. A pregnant woman is standing by a lake side at the foot of a steep mountain. Her reflection can be seen in the water; we only see the reflection of the mountain as a huge lump of earth, not the mountain itself. But the inverted figure and the upright figure are exactly the same - not as in a mirror image, which raises a doubt as to whether this really is a reflection. And the mountain is perhaps real, perhaps reflection and shadow from a bright light. What is real, what is image?
Man is above all the subject and theme of this artist, but man is not the centre of the universe, the work of art is not a direct representation of the human being.
- When I was at art college, I felt that anything that looked like something that it really wasn't, that was wrong to make. I don't suppose this was really the case, but that's how I felt about it. I felt for example that if you modelled a sculpture and there was iron inside that you couldn't see, it was as if you were lying in some way. The picture that represented something or other was an illusion, and so I decided that precisely that illusion was what I would work with. I wanted to sculpt shadows, reflections, what is unreal, imagined. Suddenly the reflection itself becomes a subject. You see how exciting it is, changing and full of possibilities. Now I find this more compelling than the underlying theory - that interests me less.
The reflection is usually through
a horizontal surface, so what is reflected is upside down. We
have the impression that the figure is reflected in water. But
at times there are waves on the water that give some movement in
the reflection and the figure becomes more alive. For Hans Pauli
Olsen this makes it more exciting. The water has no symbolic
significance, it is only the ground of the picture.
- That is nearly the same as with reflection - shadow is intangible, that's why I chose to work with it. I work consciously with the intangible, it is like getting behind things to a new reality.
»Skuggin« (The Shadow) 1987 is a particularly rough surface, a big sculpted sheet with the only eye-catching detail a small part of the shadow in the shape of a big rough hand. At the top of the edge of the shadow stands a tiny man as if at the edge of a cliff, at the boundary to eternity - the shadow is his. Perhaps it is the same man in life size who sits bent under the shadow - a well constructed, carefully sculpted self-portrait. The proportions are surprising. They are based on traditional perspective, but the emphasizing of pronounced differences in size leads us to new ways of thinking and from new angles.
- When I started to work figuratively again, to represent things, I realized how important it was to be aware that this was an illusion. And then there's the matter of making large and small figures - the shadow can be much larger than life size and so on. I have made a sculpture where the biggest part of the figure is represented as being under water, this makes it bigger than the part above the surface. When you are under water everything seems bigger - that is something that I find very interesting.
Realization breaks its way out of the raw mass, fleeting moments of life and soul are caught in movements full of temperament. Combining natural and abstract figures, which is always artistically problematic, does not appear to cause any trouble, partly due to the particular way in which the surface is treated.
The artist has ventured along many paths, worked on various ideas, also nonfigurative, and in other materials, for example aluminium and iron. But he always returns to clay and figurative art. »Spegling« (Reflection) 1985 is in aluminium. An inverted mirror image is cut out of a sheet. A pair of feet are modelled above, which suggest the connection to the man we do not see. But the sheet of aluminium is ambiguous. With its shiny surface it absorbs other reflections too - and it is bent as the movement of a wave, like traces in water.
- It is very satisfactory to work in aluminium. I achieved what I wanted to do with that sheet, and I could undoubtedly have made more sculptures using sheets of aluminium, but nevertheless I felt that it was wrong to take for granted that a surface is a surface, therefore I prefer to sculpt the surface. That makes it easier to understand that I have chosen to make a flat sculpture. It is more o f a challenge to sculpt a flat surface than to take a sheet and saw into it. That is probably why I have never used such sheets again, but you never know what you might get up to (laughter).
The artist sculpts the dark - the
darkness around a door that stands ajar. » Stólurin« (The Chair)
1986 seems hard to grasp - a strange, formless lump fills the
seat - a shadow that has been given substance. A little man is
sitting at the bottom of the back of the chair.
- I go into a dark room, go over to a chair and look out of the window. Down in the street people are sitting against the wall of the house. The chair is in natural size, I could sit in it, and there down at the bottom the man is sitting, for me he is not just a little man, but a man who is Pr away. So you see when I make a small figure, it is not something that is necessarily small, but represents something that isfar away - that is the perspective, not like the Egyptian's the bigger a figure was, the more important it was. But there is the little man sitting up against a big wall of a house and I am standing above. The chair is organic because it is in the dark, in that way you can make an organic sculpture, it is also of course a matter of making a lump. But the image is a chair that stands in the dark.
He often uses his own body as an element of the work of art - the sculpture, »Fevning« (Embrace) 1985 is a direct impression of his body. In most of the female figures his wife is the model, or other relatives.
-A long time ago, when I needed a model at the Art College, but had used up all my money for models, I thought to myself that I could be my own model. It was terribly difficult at first, but it also gave a freedom - there was nobody to consider and I could pull apart what I had just made. Now I often do it as an exercise when I want to get started again after a pause. For example at the moment I'm working on a sculpture for which I use a shadow, and then it is natural to use ones own shadow, for in that way I experience the picture. It is my own shadow, but I do not really think o f it as a self-portrait, even although it could be interpreted as such.
The formal starting point is the classical sculpture, the great tradition from the Renaissance. A thread is surely taken from the great French sculptor, Rodin, who was amongst the last and certainly the best to work with the romantic school of sculpture founded by Michelangelo. But Hans Pauli Olsen's sculptures represent, as he himself points out, not -people-, but figures that take their place. Perhaps we can call them mythical. With his personal and independent attitude and his conceptual vision Hans Pauli Olsen is helping to change the course of the art of sculpture.
Grønningen, Charlottenborg, 1993. Polyester