Hans Landsaat's work
The art of positive doubting

Hans Landsaat travels out of curiosity, to get to know the unknown, to discover similarities between the known and undiscovered, out of necessity, to undermine his certainties and preconceptions and to nurture his doubt. It is this doubt that grants him the freedom to do what he does when, and in the manner in which, it suits him best. He does not allow rules, conventions or uncertainties which demand confirmation, to hinder him in his work.

This also explains the use of different mediums; drawing, painting, various kinds of graphics, artist's books. And it explains why the pencil, the brush, the pen, the pelican's feather, are equally dear to him. It also explains why his work sometimes tends to be abstract and at other times, stays close to the figurative. The one drawing is no more than a suggestion of a landscape, so that the viewer can form his own conclusions or relate his own story; another shows an almost completed landscape, placing the viewer at a greater distance as (joint-) admirer.

Kijkende rots (1992)Until the 80's Landsaat's landscapes were stylized and contrived. He did not wish to confront his public with his own uncertainties; he wanted to present them with a schematic image. Towards the end of the 80's he made his first acquaintance with the Australian scenery. This overwhelming experience turned his work upside down. If before he had wanted to get a grasp on the landscape now the Australian landscape grasped him. From then on his work became more unrestrained, uninhibited. Emotions were allowed a more prominent place.

Kanaal bij zee (2005)Whether based on Canada, Australia or the Flemish coast, the result is extensive and empty with fragments of suggestions of a landscape that extends beyond the picture. A landscape revealing signs of human habitation but not the habitants themselves. In some paintings and drawings a human figure is apparent, often lying down, but a minute part of the picture. Although Landsaat himself does not experience it in this way, many of his works give me a feeling of desolation and loneliness. For him his images are rather a sign of yearning, romantic in the original sense of the word; of joy and awe.

The practiced viewer or connoisseur will recognize them, for the average viewer they will have little or no identity. It is not Landsaat's intention to offer us a recognizable image of China or Canada. He wants to express the impressions he collects, his emotions and experiences. Others may use portraits, or representations of human activity. He has chosen for landscapes. By avoiding the local, the mundane and the immediately recognizable, his work achieves a universal, generally appreciable character, placing it indisputably in a long artistic tradition.

Landtong en eiland (2005)The fact that Hans Landsaat's work goes beyond reality is the result of the way he works. While travelling he makes notes and sketches and simple photographs. At home in his studio in Amsterdam or Flanders he works these visual notes out. That is to say, he allows his interpretations, his imagination, his mood of the moment to determine the result. It is precisely this conscious manipulation in his diverse work that evokes the emotions of the viewer.

It cannot be easy to work in a genre with such a long tradition, particularly that of the Dutch visual arts. Landsaat acknowledges and admires many of his illustrious predecessors and at times will illustrate this admiration in a painting. However, he does not let himself be intimidated by them. Because he gives his positive doubt a place he can work in complete freedom at an oeuvre that fits into the tradition, without letting this tradition become a burden.

Rob Perrée
September 2005

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