Texts authors

Katalog: MAC, Museum of Contemporary Art, São Paulo, 1982

„Within range of my hand and far beyond . . .“

Remarks on the painting of Alfried Hagedorn

„Painting is manifestly something volatile, an inner principle, and when one touches upon it, everything moves. When one tries to fix its contours, it slips through the fingers like fine, dry sand. Waiting, trusting the moment and then opening oneself without constraint to its workings . _ .“ In these economically formulated sentences of Hagedorn”s, it appears to me, is the essence of his painting exhibited; the state of suspension proper to the work is formulated here as intention and goal of a pure, non-figurative painting. Thus, his world of images is harmonious within itself when it- although this appears at first paradoxical - maintains this indeterminacy.

Should one try to determine models and spheres of influence for Hagedorn”s work, one would find in Europe, at least in regard to the aspects of form and color, little that compares. Important for Hagedorn was a more than two year stay in Kyoto, made possible by a grant from the Japanese government and the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), which stay decisively contributed to deepening an already ever-present affinity to Eastern thought, to clarifying his ovm as of then still unconscious artistic position, and to bringing him, by way of a more intensive appropriation of this Eastem thought, once again into a distance from it. Models for his work are much sooner to be found in European Literature: Hölderlin makes his presence felt. one often finds himself reminded of Ernst Moritz Arndt as well, then too, distantly of Proust and Baudelaire. It is never. of course. a matter of mere illustration for the one or the other poet, rather of a spiritual proximity. There comes to bear. certainly. a romantic tradition, indebted to the German ldealism, which finds its expression not leastways in the inclination toward theoretical substantiation of its own standpoint.

Just as it is difficult to determine definitive prototypes for Hagedorn”s painting, it is difficult to anchor his work within the current art scene. Much more conspicuous is the fact, when one considers his works before the backdrop of contemporary art activity, in the larger context of an exhibition or in the private atmosphere of the studio, that his works do not appear to completely fit in to any of the current concepts of art. Nowhere are they firmly and exclusively located, neither - and this seems essential to me - at one certain cultural site nor within any one of the current artistic trends. His works move in an intermediate area, in a positive sense unstable and siteless, „in search of the lost time“ or, in the sense of a Proust paraphrase, „in search of the lost identity“. In this quite willfully formulated fundamental position, skepticism and self-certainty unite in a, for Hagedorn”s generation, quite typical and therefore, ultimately, quite timely view. Nevertheless, the artistic development proceeds gradually, considered. It is precisely for this reason, however, that Hagedorn's development beyond the sometimes powerful influence of his teacher, Reimer J ochims, and that of the Japanese sphere takes place more lastingly, this development continuing up to his present artistic view, which view appears not leastways the result of a quiet stubbornness. In his previous oeuvre are just as few abrupt changes of style as there are loud gestures. His painting does not want to dominante or persuade the viewer. They impress much more with their restrained, dissonance-disclaiming beauty, a beauty that claims the viewer by virtue of its unobtrusive presence. without, however, stiffening into an attitude of decoration. Within the more recent abstract art there is seldom a comparably intense expression of desperate dependency, defenselessness, Vulnerability. This pictorial effect is grounded in the technique as well as in the domains of form and color, in which fragility is essentially immanent. The decisive aspect of this is Hagedorn's special color-transparency technique: he paints with thínned acrylics on grounded cotton fabric and thereby attains in a large format a transparent quality comparable to that of aquarelles and whose origins may be found in Japanese watercolor painting. He is often concerned with the sensually conceivable transposition of the material character of the paint and thereby with the connected associations (for instance, light and dark as the opposites of transparent and opaque).

Cloudy, intermingling veils of color cover the picture surface, upon which abbreviated, darker and opaque bnısh strokes. reminding one of Japanese characters, are sometimes superimposed. On the whole, however, the impression of transparency, weightlessness and thereby apogee remains. The technique, thus, is in double regard fragile: not only in respect of the work process itself but also of the technique”s conveying of itself to the viewer via the pictorial effect. The technical procedure demands extraordinary concentration and sensitivity, the painting process itself is extremely vulnerable and requires a balance in the artist to prevent its becoming either too light or too massive. This vulnerability then conveys itself to the viewer whereby the smallest flaws in the structure can disrupt the balance. For the paintings then become problematical when they do not preserve their own and appropriate state of suspension, when they solidify into definable image-symbols, or tend toward dissonant, unnatural colors. Positively formulated, Hagedorn attains to the most convincing results when the balance is preserved in form, color and content and an „originary state“ is reached in which an infinite plurality of various developmental possibilites is implied.

To this extent, the „not-being-rooted“ in one artistic direction or the other is in no way to be mistaken for indecisiveness or lack of standpoint. To the contrary, this very „nowhere-being-settled“ becomes the true site of his painting. It is the silence of an unreal sphere in which the Natural calls and meanings flash, without, however, solidifying. Hagedom`s paintings suggest a non-material, dynamic state of being, exempted from the Here and Now - a position that appears particularly timeless, especially in the context of the current art of the „Young Wild Ones“ ~ and yet remain unpretentious and, in a positive sense, unspectacularly self-assertive.

Carla Schulz-Hoffmann

States Collection of Art Munique

Translated from the German by Mark Chain

Visible expression of an invisible reality

In Hagedorn's paintings, color is handled with great awareness and concentration. The colors are light, luminous and transparent. Not a few paintings could be mistaken for watercolors, so airy do they appear despite their size. The color application is firm and delicate at the same time, it ranges from gossamer touches to breathing darknesses. By the gradations one recognizes the exquisite colorist....
His brushwork is both spontaneous and disciplined. He makes visible a reality whose nature is abstract and spiritual....

The paintings of the last six years show a great variety, of color, of its nuances, of the respective dynamics and of the arrangement of the surface. They seem to strive for harmony, yet perfect harmony is deliberately avoided.... Fascination and tranquility emanate from Hagedorn's paintings - the visible expression of an invisible reality.

Heike Marx

Gallery Derix, Taunusstein/ Wiesbaden

Kunsthalle Mannhein 1986
Kunstverein Lingen 1986


Alfried Hagedorn's painting is not programmatic, nor does it develop in a closed system or in a fixed canon of forms, which he uses to express certain contents. Rather, the statement that Carla Schulz-Hoffmann made in 1982 to characterize Hagedorn's painting, that it is nowhere fixed and exclusively located, neither in a particular cultural place, nor within one of the vaunted art movements. If one looks at his mostly large-format paintings with their interlocking and overlapping transparent veils of color, often overlaid with dense, gestural or calligraphic signs, they allow for a wealth of associations, which, however, are difficult to define unambiguously. Alfried Hagedorn wrote in a text that in his painting he wanted to span a wide circle of possibilities by bringing his knowledge into harmony with his ability. And in anotherplace he says: "This painting, which avoids depicting, is free to show what is between the things.
It makes use of suggestion, of ambivalence, and the openness of the structures does not allow a definitive access. In this way, she brings all the senses of the viewer to flow, who in it meaningfully renews his covenant with the world."

This openness, which is a characteristic of Alfried Hagedorn's painting, may on the one hand result from his intensive preoccupation with literature and philosophy on the one hand, but on the other hand also from a great affinity to the culture and thought of East Asia, it finds its expression in the wide range of his paintings in terms of form and color, which are characterized by a harmonious balance. But above all, it stems from an intense reflection on the meaning of his actions, on the essence of the things he tries to express in his paintings.
Mostly these pictures arise in which Hagedorn tries to express certain sensations and feelings, which can be triggered by visual experiences or by moods, arise from a spontaneous approach, which is then executed in a gradual process. Working with diluted acrylic paints gives him the possibility to put many transparent layers of paint on top of each other, which gives the impression of transparency and weightlessness, which only seldem disturbed by the form of fragments so often reminiscent of characters.
This technique requires a great sensitivity and great concentration, demands an inner balance in order not to make the images appear too heavy and massive.

Hagedorn's paintings have an unobtrusive presence and impress with their restrained beauty, especially when he achieves a formal and colorful harmony that Carla Schulz-Hoffmann calls a "primordial state" in which various possibilities for development are present, in which meanings are suggested to without being substantiated.
Alfried Hagedorn has repeatedly commented theoretically on his artistic approach, pointing out the necessity of reflecting on the sensual unity of the world, whose most important conditions and form of expression is diversity. To implement this pictorially is the goal of his painting and the basis of its openness. Carla Schulz-Hoffmann said: "Hagedorn's pictures suggest a state of being removed from the here and now, a position which, in the context of the current painting of the "Young Wild", has an especial timelessness about it while losing none of its unpretentiousness and asserting itself unspectacularly in a positive sense.

Manfred Fath
Direktor Kunsthalle Mannheim

Heiner Scheepers
Direktor Kunstverein Lingen

Katalog: MAC, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, São Paulo


Alfried Hagedorn, a German artist, brings us paintings associated with the artistic tendency of informal abstraction. The elements which make up the compositions are employed in his paintings in a very open manner. He avails himself of predominantly pictorial symbols, which try to address our sensitivity by way of the pure, artistic means in the precise senseof the word. The large-size paintings, just as the works on paper, are genuine artistic creations and in their own way completely convincing for they allow the spirit given them to clearly emerge.

When, at the beginnings of the so-called Modern Art, the painters wanted to express their mystical and transcendental sensations, they employed the human figure as the bearer of their transpositions. Thus, in regard of Expressionism”s coloration, one generally followed the example of van Gogh's and the Symbolists, thinking. These emotional forms of expression, were in the position at the middle of this century - now that the development of Abstraction had disclosed this possibility - to express themselves in non-figurative works; on the one side, they tended toward formal geometry and on the other side to pure coloration. So, what in great measure came to appear was that which called itself „Informal Abstraction“. This tendency, which spread from Europe all around the world, also took up forms, in the course of the fruitful development of its pictorial genre, which had developed especially in the art of the Far East. Since this art has affinned itself at the side of other media, it has run the course of various phases which include new pictorial conceptions With the most varied of materials as well as a new figuration.

Thus, we can see in Alfried Hagedorn's art how the non-figurative painting, in the variety achieved, opens up new dimensions. The art loses nothing of its intensity as message when it confronts us with paintings which invite a directness of contemplation. Thus we have a great interest- within the panorama of contemporary art - in the exhibition that Alfried Hagedorn brings us and which he presents to the public of Säo Paulo and Brazil.

Prof. Dr. W. Pfeifer

Director, Museum of Contemporay Art, Säo Paulo

Translated from the German by Mark Chain

Katalog: Kunstalle Mannheim, 1986

““There's No Going Back””

Alfried Hagedorn, to my mind, is not one of the painters who deal in easily accessible ceitainties. Neither recollection nor recognition is imparted in these paintings, no story is told, no point is made in the sense of solving a potential puzzle. Any reference to visible reality, to the material world of reccurrent objects that can be described, has been left aside. Closer inspection is apt to trigger fljgths of fantasy, disconcerting or relaxing for the viewer. “A painter does not react to daily events, he operates in repressed border regions,” says Hagedorn, and adds: “The absence of reality is recognized and accepted in the painting. If we are looking for confirmed information we cannot turn to these paintings. We are too close. There is no distance between us and the unconfirmed.

Unconfirmed also means: new. Something that had not existed, had never exísted before, has abruptly come to light. Hagedorn”s paintings are there, but they are not at our disposal. Is that the reason they demand so much of the viewer?

What exactly is lackirıg when Hagedorn mentions a sense of lack? Certainly not originality. I first saw paintings by Hagedorn in a Heidelberg exhibition, more than five years ago. At that time the painter had already left behind his dependencies, the years with Reimer Jochims and the irnmersion into Japanese art, possibly a decisive element. You do not think of irıfluences, however, when looking at a Hagedorn for the first time; you are satiated, you experience a sense perhaps of emotion directly conveyed, certainly of equilibrium, a sense of moods carefully balanced and succinctly stated. To use traditional terminology: you sense something deeply romantic. A subject filled with desire engaged in the quest for itself, an ego wanting to and compelled to reinvent itselfover and over again. Hence no fixed position, no vanishing-lines, no illusion.

To repeat: Hagedorn”s art is non-representational. What we see are colors, very beautiful colors, sometimes very precius ones, which establish contact, approach each other and then go their separate ways again, colors which float weightlessly and blossom tropically, from one focal point to the next, colors which are there one moment and gone the next. You never get the feeling that they are there entirely. If there were tangible pictorial structures, surely we would know where we are, but here we “get into” a painting, try to find our way and reemerge -- enriched.

Still, there are some certainties: Hagedorn*s paintings do not advocate that mode of existence which externalizes subjective emotional states. They refrain from commentary, they leave unsaid what happened to the painter: his Souvenirs are his alone. Intentionality appears to have been blocked out deliberately, at least with respect to defmable notions of form. “Technique is the result of a necessity”, Jackson Pollock once wrote. Alfried Hagedorn, it seems, has managed to free himself of even that kind of necessity. He emphasizes instinct, the acquired skills and the discipline that no longer needs to reflect upon itws own conditions. In a text written in 1982 Hagedom asked: “Why shouldn”t I trust that inner authority which has formed itself over many years of painting?” In the same context he referred to the “grace of movement”. He did not mention effort.

Effort, however, need not be visible. Hagedom”s paintings -- that much is certain -- exist solely through their colors. These colors yield no clear definition of area or space, any condensation into signs, symbols or metaphors is avoided. These colors have no discernible tendency to be anything but colors. These colors yield no clear definition of area or space, any condensation into signs, symbols or metaphors is avoided. These colors have no discemible tendency to be anything but colors. Above all, they are skinlike, thin, breathing, transparent skins of color - filters or membranes, to use Hagedom's tenns -- the meeting place, the place of exchange for subject and object, the within and the without, movement and rest, energy and resistance, desire and fulfillment.

A word of caution may be in order: the instinct at work here, which daringly presumes to devote itself to the quest for what is between the things, is undoubtedly an acquired instinct, mediated by culture. Hagedom is anything but a naive painter tracking down his ideas and states of mind or emotion.~The inevitable question about inspiration and tangible motivation for his art is best answered by pointing to his readings and his extensive joumeys in Japan, Southeast Asia, the United States and South America. While Hagedom and the contemporary art scene appear to be mutually oblivious of each other, his approach to cultural traditions is eclectic; he is likely to mention Lao-tzu or Vico, Valéıy or the haiku master Bashô, Baudelaire or Hölderlin. Eclecticism is the unquestioned prerogative of a postmodemist age such as ours. The spoils of culture are at modern man”s and the artist”s disposal, but their outhright rejection is not a valid option for him. “Less analysis, no more separation, no more subject-object polarity, rather: existence at the middle of things. ...The world is a perpetual unity that includes us, or it is nothing.“

But perhaps we are simply faced with contemporary strictures against allowing anything certain and solidified to emerge, against anything that looks like a system? Doesn”t all of modem art bear witness to the thesis that painting constitutes a reality in itself? According to a contemporary demand, reiterated over and over, no painting worthy of the name may lend itself to quick consumption. In a complex and risky manner, Hagedom has subjugated himself to the demand for an unmistakably individual style. While others may retreat to one single position, this painter has taken the opposite approach, opening himself wide, trusting his own experience, trusting coincidence and the unpredictable that goes hand in hand with such trust. Every new painting represents a risk, another challenge accepted, its boundaries to be defmed anew. Yet there is one reliable mainstay: whatever happens takes place “within reach of my hand,” Hagedom states, adding almost emphatically, “... and far beyond.” Beyond? Futile to ask how far beyond. Here, as elsewhere, the boundaries of imagination remain shrouded in mystery. While Hagedom”s paintings divulge little of themselves, they do preserve the painter”s gestures and signals, and transpose into color the ineffable which could be stated only at the loss of all that is essential. We might, on the other hand, discuss those colors, describing their way of spreading and seizing an area, describing their movements and varied paces. We might come to understand that there are dark periods beside bright ones, defmite successes as well as groping attempts. Such studies, however, would not really take us much beyond the basic insight that these paintings must be involved with a precise moment in time, a moment never to be regained. We are faced with a point of crystallization where events have suddenly found their unique concomitant form. We realize that here is a “image” which, while it appears to be a calculation with nothing but unknowns, at the same time represents the level on which any and all conceivable solutions would have to orientate themselves.

Yet there is no certainty anywhere. We do not know in what form the concept, the idea, originally appeared -- provided there was such a phenomenon at all. We do not ask which preparatory steps the painter took, alone in his studio, contemplating the white virgin surface, we leave his mystery untouched, what would be the point of asking. “There*s no going back” -- thus the admonishing title of a 1983 painting. The way back is closed, and all questions and answers are immaterial once the painting is there. The painting is what it happens to be, a free statement, a play of the imagination, finished,accomplished, and hence: present.

Sigrid Feeser 1986

Art critic

Translated from the German by Wolfgang Heuss

„SinglarPlural, Munique Rome Paris“ Lothringerstr. 13, München, Cultural Department, 1983

" How admirable is,

Who does not think: Life is transitory

When he sees a flash of lightning. ”>

Bashô, one of the haiku masters, possesses as an essential merit, as this apparently simple three-liner shows, to pretend to be intelligent, to be able to be grasped immediately, without communicating anything. Or almost nothing to communicate. Just a few words, an image, a sensation. Already a universe opens up and offers itself to us. ALFRIED HAGEDORN seems to proceed similarly. In the picture - Yellow Path - he unfolds a vertical surface. In the picture - Yellow Path - he unfolds a vertical surface by creating three unequal bands in a sharp and light, but at the same time restrained yellow. And in this surface, suddenly, in a quick gesture, short and incisive black traces appear - of the order of a decision - as if each were a cut in skin. Short, flush interventions, events that suddenly find their appropriate forms. While in other paintings, he lets zones of color, like humid and tropical fields, spread out, overlapping, one overlap, one from the other transparently form. To arrive - each time - at this enigmatic and rare moment, which is the place of painting.

Gaya Goldcymer

Art critic, Paris