Paros /Naxos Life – Issue july 2011 – by Vangelis Hatziyannidis.
It almost always seems useful, when weighing my impressions of an art work, to try and remember my reaction — that natural and spontaneous exchange between the mind and the senses — at the very first viewing. While deep and careful consideration, undergone calmly and at leisure, can reveal hidden facets of the work or provide clues to understanding it and its goals, the first viewing uncovers something, I believe, much more fundamental — that is, when it is evoked with accuracy: The intensity with which the work converses with your soul, or, if soul is too vague a concept, your unconscious.
I first saw Hans Giesen’s work in the spring of last year, in Aliki. We had met only a few days before, at the house of our mutual friends, Kosta and Anthi. I remember a very animated discussion taking place about the usefulness (or not) of art in everyday life, and of the existence (or not) of some kind of secret element that renders an art work great. These customary questions regarding art are always capable of provoking excitement among artists sitting around a dinner table. Hans and I later agreed to meet again, and did, for lunch at Manoli’s Taverna in Aliki, he with Jeanne and I with Rania. It was then that I first experienced his work, as he handed me some catalogs from past exhibitions.
Let’s consider the following words side by side: May, Paros, midday, the colors of Hans Giesen. What a shock! The artist’s calm countenance now seemed almost to have deceived me. I was entirely unprepared for war, for there is something war-like about his colors. Even the softer, more congenial colors of Giesen’s palette radiate decisiveness. They are determined to conquer you and will not yield.
It somehow seems that this effect isn’t entirely due to the artist’s skillful manipulation of color, but that the colors themselves are of a different nature, a rare type, to which is added, by some strange process, crushed light. Parian light in powder form, mixed in with the paint.
Then there are the figures. Anarchic, undefined, but with a sweet roundedness, as if they had been poured into a bronze cast. They float, they sail, they whirl; they remain enigmatic — enigmatic but not incomprehensible. This is the work of Hans Giesen. It gives hints and encourages the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks.
The catalogs remained on the table even when the food arrived — calamari, green salad, barley rusk topped with fresh, diced tomatoes; colors in conversation. “When we first came to Greece,” Jeanne said, “we weren’t familiar with the rusk. ‘What is this hard, dry bread?’ we said. Of course we later learned to love it.”
This year marks the couple’s twenty-fifth on Paros as permanent residents. How random is a man’s decision about the place in which he’ll drop anchor? Not at all, of course. But what is it that ties us to a certain place, compelling us to call it home? Is it natural beauty? The climate? The people? The air or light? A combination of the above? It’s hard to say. ?t’s hard to decipher the calling.
As it is with determining the essence of art, this question remains unfathomable. There is, however, something certain. People and places are mashed together and both are marked by the process. The colors of the earth, the light of the sky, the clearness of the water, the mysterious aura of Paros, all give Hans Giesen’s work a certain charge, just as Giesen leaves behind his own trace in the place in which he’s chosen to settle, high in the hills of Akgairia. Twenty-five years is a long time, considering the average span of human life.
With the completion of Hans Giesen’s quarter of a century living and working on the island of Paros — and drawing, as he says, from the very first day, strength and inspiration for his painting — we have the pleasure of viewing an exhibition of his work, organized by the Public Cultural Center at the Dimitrakopoulos Building, in concert with the Dutch embassy (Ambassador Mr. van Rij will be presiding at the opening). All the pieces were painted on Paros. It is worthwhile to stand before each one and observe those vital elements that are the mark of art and of Giesen’s craft: the freedom of gesture, the intensity of color, the flight of fancy, qualities which allow us to characterize this artist as truly instinctive.