H Schlagen (1959)
My first encounter with H’s artworks was an intriguing one; it were his inks and ink washes that got my attention first.
They looked CoBrA but they are not. Cobra is mainly and deliberately an aesthetic and seemingly childish, ludic art expression with a quite interesting revolt against the abstract movements of its time. H Schlagen’s works on paper in black ink, with sometimes here and there a color accent; look at first glimpse CoBrA because of the strong expressionistic figures and playful characters, but they are much more mature and detailed. They have more in common with anatomy sketches of the renaissance or preparative baroque drawings for immense fresco’s, they have even a sort of decadent graffiti found on the brown red walls of ancient Pompeii and then again his work goes much further.
His artworks are political, religious and philosophical even pamphlet like expressions about the daily routine with a lucid, ludic borderline Dadaistic, sarcastic humoristic approach on the actual ruts in the world. Other works are hints to the recent past, the good old time of rock, pop and jazz, the hippie cult, the psychedelic and the oriental philosophies. His gore scenes and creepy things or subjects make you prudently smile; there is more to it than what you see because he is a fine observer too. He makes ugly beautiful in a few ink or paint strokes by juggling in a grandiose way with the images in order to get the difficult deranging messages across. In a clever way he plays with the angles, the layout and the perspectives of the’’ mise en scène’’; just like the great movie directors do to add suspense, tenderness or horror. He masters the framing of his subjects as if you zoom in or out, you get a feeling of traveling up or down with the camera movements. Sometimes his artworks remind me of the early German expressionistic dark, futuristic movies or the early French sci-fi and surreal fantastic films of the French Belle Époque and Art-Déco periods.
His portraits are grotesquely refined; the expressions say what they have to say, they are brutal and direct depictions of death and birth, joy and agony, health and injury and they could find comparison in the expressions on the faces of Hieronymus Bosch drawings and paintings, although some of his personages look more Greek or Roman because of their curly hair and some characters are elevated as gods of the classic mythologies of the Mediterranean civilisations. The bolder other ones are pure expressionistic faces, primitive art brut strait out of the expressionist movement ‘’Die Brücke’’ others are placed in a war environment and some figures have their faces hidden behind gas masks has in the works of the remarkable Otto Dix. Elaborations on malformation, deformities and tormented figures and personages in his artworks are also close to Francis Bacon an artist he greatly admires.
When he leaves the black and white, the monochrome after therapeutic ink wash and ink drawing periods, he goes over in a color mood and he becomes more obvious a pure product of his generation and his geo location: A brutal neo-expressionist, with all the ‘’Heftige’’ wild and raw fauvist colors, normal because having lived through the period of this art movement, it seemed relevant!
He is part of the Neue Wilde, but he is not stuck in the movement. In his recent works the evolution, with an interesting switch to fauve Matisse-Derain pastel like colors slipping into his works; is remarkable and the images are nearly Rubenism tangled nude bodies scattered all over, reviving biblical scenes spouted out of an erotic indent. The subjects aspiring works as Picasso’s Rape of the Sabines, not sure, maybe he is nearer and inspired by his love for the Italian culture and masters like Antonio Domenico Gabbiani (1652-1726) or the mythological works by Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669)?
Anyway what’s important! Well, there is no doubt, it’s definitely his style and he owns his artworks.
Some of these new works feel like the ambition he wants to create monumental frescos on the ceilings and walls in new strange temples of still to be invented new religions or philosophies. The new color pallet of H Schlagen gets and gives an additional dimension to the space in which his figures float and the strength of the Baroque Rococo lines put down with an optimistic swag make this outsider approach look good for the future to come.
His last works are in contrast with his red and black series of drawings from 2011-2012, stylistically, but philosophically his Siena orange red colors express the same search and do express social discomfort; his abhorrence of all forms of hypocrisy and fascism and his anger against the absurd, stupidity and out of fashion established structures of modern society.
His concern is how to get out of the rat race? Thinking is his thing, calculating is another strong hold of Henning. Technologies, engineering, radio and TV waves, switch boards, laboratories, strange engines, genetic manipulation, industrial plants, arms and computers are his structured chaos and he manages his passions and moods through his ideas, which are instinctual and intellectual. His mathematical brain produces periodically abstract, minimalist and even conceptual artworks.
His unfettered emotions create artworks where erotic energy and spiritual freedom are king, sometimes over powered with loneliness, stress, metal cruelty and mental health issues and subjects that can plunge into freaking accidents, sickness and the daily dose of violence. These subjects fight it out in his darker red ocher and green brown colors, the daily hutch putsch and the routine, it all takes and makes a sense expressed and uttered in quite precise black lines over lapsing white inks brushed out over the subject as a raw mourning vale.
In his ups and optimistic moods he paints and draws planes, cockpits in space, pilots and rock stars in strong colored acrylics and oils, they have bright yellows, bleus and recently pastel pinks, whites and fresh malachite greens. In his turbulent serious moods his colors become even darker, some of his white papers become completely black ink covered, he also uses sublimely more constructed and deepened scenes on his large cartons, board or recycled school maps, onto he prepares pre applies glue to build up his separately painted or drawn scenes on thick brown paper and then apposes them like a collage on that same oiled canvas.
If you thought his interests and skills stopped here?! Well no, not at all, in the contrary. He continues his constantly creative ideas further when there is nothing around anymore, after using paper, canvas, carton, cloth, wrapping paper, plastic or paper shopping bags, he can even insert cookies or chips in his creations, he then starts carving, scratching, drawing and painting on tables, chairs or objects, like t.v’s, to probably make Wolf Vostell jealous.
He is also a photographer, experiments with clay and is an assembler of objects in order to create conceptual sculptures, installations or art objects. In fact he seldom stops and although his subjects are hard, he is a positive optimistic man.
I think his eclectic interests are that of a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. He is a Polymath; has referring to the renaissance time period.
Text by Yoannick Ysebaert – Fine Art Dealer and Curator 2016