Hans Hoffman


German-born American Abstact Painter

Author Quotes

The product of movement and counter-movement is tension. When tension ? working strength ? is expressed, it endows the work of art with the living effect of coordinated, though opposing, forces.

When the impulses which stir us to profound emotion are integrated with the medium of expression, every interview of the soul may become art. This is contingent upon mastery of the medium.

The reciprocal relation of color to color produces a phenomenon of a more mysterious order. This new phenomenon is psychological. A high sensitivity is necessary in order to expand color into the sphere of the surreal without losing creative ground. Color stimulates certain moods in us. It awakens joy or fear in accordance with its figuration. In fact, the whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color. Our entire being is nourished by it. This mystic quality of color should likewise find expression in a work of art.

While creative science is a mental food, art is the satisfaction of the soul.

The relative meaning of two physical facts in a emotionally controlled relation always creates the phenomenon of a third fact of a higher order, just as two musical sounds, heard simultaneously create the phenomenon of a third, fourth or fifth. The nature of this higher third is non-physical. In a sense it is magic. Each such phenomenon always overshadows the material qualities and the limited meaning of the basic factors from which it has sprung. For this reason Art expresses the highest quality of the spirit when it is surreal in nature; or, in terms of the visual arts, when it is of a surreal plastic nature.

You make a thin line and a thick line. It is the same with geometrical shapes. It is all relationship. Without all these relationships it is not possible to express higher art.

The significance of a work of art is determined then by the quality of its growth. This involves intangible forces inherent in the process of development. Although these forces are surreal (that is, their nature is something beyond physical reality), they, nevertheless, depend on a physical carrier. The physical carrier (commonly painting or sculpture) is the medium of expression of the surreal. Thus, an idea is communicable only when the surreal is converted into material terms. The artist?s technical problem is how to transform the material with which he works back into the sphere of the spirit.

The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color. Our entire being is nourished by it. This mystic quality of color should likewise find expression in a work of art.

Speech has arisen through the need for expression. Certain factors have contributed to making it the paramount utilitarian method of expression. There are ideas and things expressible in words, but there are ideas better expressed in music, the person with no musical ear, or without discipline in the language of music, lacks the key to the door of the world of musical experience. But we live in a world of volume and space; it is hard to conceive of the person who is space-blind or volume-deaf. The great majority of people have the means of approach to plastic beauty as part of their natural equipment. The teacher can develop this natural endowment as Necessity, the greatest teacher, has developed speech.

The width of a line may present the idea of infinity. An epigram may contain a world. In the same way, a small picture format may be much more living, much more leavening, stirring, awakening, than square yards of wall space.

The art of pictorial creation is so complicated - it is so astronomical in its possibilities of relation and combination that it would take an act of super-human concentration to explain the final realization.

There is a world of visual beauty open to the one willing to undergo the practice and striving necessary to the understanding of its language. This world is a important as culturally as is the world of words or of music. My ideal is to form and to paint as Schubert sings his songs and as Beethoven creates his world in sounds. That is to say, creation of one?s own inner world through the same human and artistic discipline. An inner sensation can find external expression only through spiritual realization.

The creative process lies not in imitating, but in paralleling nature ? translating the impulse received from nature into the medium of expression, thus vitalizing this medium. The picture should be alive, the statue should be alive, and every work of art should be alive.

There is in reality no such thing as modern art. Art is carried on up and down in immense cycles through centuries and civilizations.

The difference between the arts arises because of the difference in the nature of the mediums of expression and the emphasis induced by the nature of each medium. Each means of expression has its own order of being, its own units.

Things generally taken for beautiful are nothing other than the product of frozen, stereotyped taste, bound by sterile rules and purely exterior judgment.

The encompassing, creative mind recognizes no boundaries. The mind has ever brought new spheres under its control.

This two-way transformation proceeds from metaphysical perceptions, for metaphysics is the search for the essential nature of reality. And so artistic creation is the metamorphosis of the external physical aspects of a thing into a self-sustaining spiritual reality. Such is the magic act which takes place continuously in the development of a work of art. On this and only on this is creation based.

The general misunderstanding of a work of art is often due to the fact that the key to its spiritual content and technical means is missed. Unless the observer is trained to a certain degree in the artistic idiom, he is apt to search for things which have little to do with the aesthetic content of a picture. He is likely to look for pure representational values when the emphasis is really upon music-like relationships.

Through a painting we can see the whole world.

The impressionistic method leads into a complete splitting and dissolution of all areas involved in the composition, and color is used to create an overall effect of light. The color is, through such a shading down from the highest light in the deepest shadows, sacrified an degraded to a (black-and-white) function. This leads to the destructions of the color as color.

To experience visually, and to transform our visual experience into plastic terms, requires the faculty of empathy.

The impulse of nature, fused through the personality of the artist by laws arising from the particular nature of the medium, produces the rhythm and the personal expression of a work. Then the life of the composition becomes a spiritual unity.

To sense the invisible and to be able to create it ? that is art.

The knowledge of reality, achieved by means of the complete sensory equipment, must be expressed artistically in terms of a medium which appeals to the memory of all sensory experience ? but only through the eye.

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German-born American Abstact Painter