Hans Hoffman


German-born American Abstact Painter

Author Quotes

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.

To worship the product and ignore its development leads to dilettantism and reaction. Art cannot result from sophisticated, frivolous, or superficial effects.

The physical carrier is overshadowed by a relation. The relation creates an overtone. The physical carrier is absorbed by this overtone. The overtone spontaneously transforms the means of creation into a spiritual reality. The mystery of creation is then revealed.

What goes on in abstract art is the proclaiming of aesthetic principles... It is in our own time that we have become aware of pure aesthetic considerations. Art never can be imitation.

The plastic artist may or may not be concerned with presenting a superficial appearance of reality, but he is always concerned with the presentation ? if not the representation ? of the plastic values of reality.

When I paint, I paint under the dictate of feeling or sensing, and the outcome all the time is supposed to say something.

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.

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German-born American Abstact Painter