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Hans Hofmann (1880 – 1966)


One of the older abstract expressionist painters working in New York.
Hans Hofmann
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.
Hofmann quotes
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.
Hofmann
Robert Motherwell: Would you say that a fair statement of your position is that the "meaning" of a work of art consists of the relations among the elements, and not the elements themselves?
Hofmann: Yes, that I would definitely say. You make a thin line and a thick line. It is the same with geometrical shapes. It is all relationship. Without all these relationships it is not possible to express higher art.




Hofmann Hans quotes
Since light is best expressed through differences in color quality, color should not be handled as a tonal gradation, to produce the effect of light.
Hofmann Hans
Basically I hate categorical labels. As a young artist I already was very clear about this — that "objectification" is not the final aim of art. For there are greater things than the object. The greatest thing is the human mind.
Hans Hofmann quotes
It isn’t necessary to make things large to make them monumental; a head by Giacometti one inch high would be able to vitalize this whole space.
Hans Hofmann
A thought that has found a plastic expression must continue to expand in keeping with its own plastic idiom. A plastic idea must be expressed with plastic means just as a musical idea is expressed with musical means, or a literary idea with verbal means. Neither music nor literature are wholly translatable into other art forms; and so a plastic art cannot be created through a superimposed literary meaning. The artist who attempts to do so produces nothing more than a show-booth. He contents himself with visual story-telling. He subjects himself to a mechanistic kind of thinking which disintegrates into fragments.
Hofmann Hans quotes
Each expression-medium has a life of its own. Regulated by certain laws, it can be mastered only by intuition during the act of creating. It is in the nature of the laws which govern every expression medium that two separate entities, related through empathy, always produce a higher third of a purely spiritual nature. This spiritual third manifests itself as a quality which carries emotional content. This quality is the opposite of illusion; it is the reality of the spirit.
Hofmann
Space expands or contracts in the tensions and functions through which it exists. Space is not a static, inert thing. Space is alive; space is dynamic; space is imbued with movement expressed by forces and counterforces; space vibrates and resounds with color, light and form in the rhythm of life.
Hofmann Hans
My aim in painting is to create pulsating, luminous, and open surfaces that emanate a mystic light, in accordance with my deepest insight into the experience of life and nature.
Hans Hofmann
Being inexhaustible, life and nature are a constant stimulus for a creative mind.




Hans Hofmann quotes
Art is magic. So say the surrealists. But how is it magic? In its metaphysical development? Or does some final transformation culminate in a magic reality? In truth, the latter is impossible without the former. If creation is not magic, the outcome cannot be magic. To worship the product and ignore its development leads to dilettantism and reaction. Art cannot result from sophisticated, frivolous, or superficial effects.
Hans Hofmann
A glimpse heavenward at a constellation or even at a single star only suggests infinity; actually our vision is limited. We cannot perceive unlimited space; it is immeasurable. The universe, as we know it through our visual experience, is limited. It first came into existence with the formation of matter, and will end with the complete dissolution of matter.
Hofmann quotes
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
Hofmann Hans
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.
Hofmann Hans quotes
A line cannot control pictorial space absolutely. A line may flow freely in and out space, but cannot independently create the phenomenon of push and pull necessary to plastic creation. Push and pull are expanding and contracting forces which are activated by carriers in visual motion. Planes are the most important carriers, lines and points less so ... the picture plane reacts automatically in the opposite direction to the stimulus received; thus action continues as long as it receives stimulus in the creative process. Push answers with pull and pull with push. ... At the end of his life and the height of his capacity Cézanne understood color as a force of push and pull. In his pictures he created an enormous sense of volume, breathing, pulsating, expanding, contracting through his use of colors.
Hans Hofmann
Since one cannot create "real depth" by carving a hole in the picture, and since one should not attempt to create the illusion of depth by tonal gradation, depth as a plastic reality must be two dimensions in a formal sense as well in the sense of color. "Depth" is not created on a flat surface as an illusion, but as a plastic reality. The nature of the picture plane makes it possible to achieve depth without destroying the two-dimensional essence of the picture plane. ... A plane is a fragment in the architecture of space. When a number of planes are opposed one to another, a spatial effect results. A plane functions in the same manner as the walls of a building. ... Planes organized within a picture create the pictorial space of its composition. ... The old masters were plane-consciousness. This makes their pictures restful as well as vital...
Hans Hofmann quotes
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.
Hans Hofmann
It is the greatest injustice done to Mondrian that people who are plastically blind see only decorative design instead of the plastic perfection which characterizes his work. The whole De Stijl group from which Mondrian's art was derived must be considered a protest against such blindness.
Hofmann Hans
A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.


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