Graphic art by Hans Landsaat

Eva Vreeburg

Taken over, with permission, from: Omslag 2008/02, the Bulletin of the University Library Leiden and the Scaliger Institute

Franz K., 1975 The prints cabinet recently acquired the folio Franz K. made in 1975 by graphic artist Hans Landsaat (1935). It consists of 19 silkscreen prints, 2 pages of text plus contents and colophon. The prints were inspired by and refer to Franz Kafka’s most important works, the novels Das Schloss and America(Der Verschollene), the narratives Die Verwandlung and Das Urteil and his letters and diaries. Landsaat does not proffer one-dimensional illustrations from Kafka’s work but evokes the atmosphere of the narratives using condensed images. His hard-edge technique is very effective in his approach to Kafka’s opppressive narration, which is obvious in the above print, calling-up the bewildering situation in the Herrenhof with its wilful doors.

Besides Franz K. several other folios by Hans Landsaat were acquired: Undestined (1995) and Water (2007). They form an appropriate complement to the work already present in the collection Borders/Transitions ( 1983) and Notes over 50 years (1985) as well as the silkscreen prints Still Life Red and Still Life Blue ( 1980).

After working in advertising Landsaat began his artistic career in his early 30’s having studied free graphic art at what is now the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He makes mainly prints, drawings and paintings and also has several monumental commissions, in the form of murals, to his name whilst he publishes his own artist’s books via his small publishing firm, Derby Pier. Thanks to the recent acquisitions a cross-section of his work is now available in Leiden.

Landsaat’s work is marked by a constant varying in the relationship between the figurative and the abstract. It actually finds itself in the twilight zone between the 2 poles. With a limited number of strokes or forms he can suggest mountains, buildings or human figures and he often uses an extreme perspective. The onlooker seems to float above the image or, alternatively, to come so close as to be almost able to touch the subject. Using perspective in this way Landsaat creates an exotic world. The work does not easily reveal its content and the constant alternation between recognition and abstraction makes the work so interesting.

A recurring aspect of his work is the written word – literature and poetry play an important role – word and image complementing each other. In Water, for example, quotes from poets, philosophers and writers about water in all its various forms, printed on transparent sheets, lie over the prints. Another constant is the landscape, Landsaat’s connotation for his surroundings in the broadest sense of the word; the landscape as he experienced it during his travels to Australia, China, Scotland, England and Canada, for instance, form the basis for his work.

Eva Vreeburg (1982) studies Art History at the University of Leiden. She has also done the Bachelors course in Graphic Art and Graphic Techniques at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague and the University of Leiden. She has concentrated on modern art and hopes to graduate in 2008.