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A Show of Gratitude - Hannes Grosse

A Show of Gratitude: in praise of going the distance

by Kristen Scholfield-Sweet

The current exhibition by Hannes Grosse at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery finally explains an answer I received in 1984. I was an uppity puppy of a new faculty member at the Nova Scotia College of Design, and I asked the head of the Studio Division, Ron Shuebrook,  “Why make art?”  He turned slowly, held my gaze, and said, “to go the distance.  Just go the distance.” 

Go the distance to where?

Hannes Grosse knows the distance, and how to get there. 

A Show of Gratitude is more than a history of a life with art, it is a revelation of the depth of perseverance and the height of commitment required for the journey.  

Here are three ways you might look at the distance traveled in Hannes’ art.

Drawing is language

Every mark is the signature of the artist.  Look at the character of lines– variations in pressure, thickness, and flow–Hannes uses in the early monoprints, and how these lines gain authority and purpose in the drawings of the black period, and then soften with skill in the drawings of beach rocks.

Composition is foundation

Composition is the spatial relationship of all the parts of an image.  How Hannes composes the parts of a work determines its look, feel and meaning. Imagine you can hear the compositions of each work in the Nam series as a musical tune.   What parts of the composition are the melody? What sounds do the colours make? What is the intonation of lines that taper and break, appear tentative and then bold?

Art is process

Choices of methods, materials and sources of images are all processes of filtering information.  This filtering creates the information that creates us, by showing what we value, where we have been, where we are going.  As Hannes shifts his methods and materials from his early drawings, through his silkscreen prints, aquatint etchings and abstract works of acrylic on cotton, he becomes more articulate about clear seeing in art.

But the roots of beauty must be examined. I saw in Tofino a glorious sunset created from the brush fire of a clearcut. An interesting cloud may arise from the chimney of a concentration camp. An exquisite rose may have been grown with slave labor. You can’t separate politics and art. A painter does not just produce something beautiful. What you think and what you do float into the work.” – Hannes Grosse interview with Carrie Saxifrage

A Show of Gratitude continues at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery July 28 from 6-9pm, July 29 and 30 from 2-6 pm.  As you stand in the Gallery, surrounded by decades of going the distance, what of your own preconceptions, received understandings, and clear seeing “float into the work?” 


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