No 3 (95) 2013
July - September

Hansen after 30 Years

Oskar Hansen ceased to work at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts 30 years ago, nevertheless, he has survived there as a figure of an innovative didactic. The exhibition at the Gallery has been an opportunity to bring back his teaching program and show that it is still up-to-date.

Agnieszka Maria Wasieczko

B. in 1974. Art. historian, critic. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Agnieszka Maria Wasieczko

THE PRESENTATION, BESIDES DRAWINGS AND RECORDS of studies made by students from the faculty run by Oskar Hansen, and didactic tools designed by him - at present in the Academy of Fine Arts Museum collection - offered current videos prepared by the Faculty of a Lump and Planes Composition, founded in 2009 by Grzegorz Kowalski. Hansen, known as the father of the Open Form theory, had been the head of the Lump and Planes Faculty of the Academy of Fine Arts as of 1952. In the period 1955-81 the classes were held at the Sculpture Department, the Faculty of a Lump and Planes Composition (till 1970), and at the Visual Structures Faculty (till 1981).

Extremely demanding, occasionally dogmatic, he was driven by great passion that he tried to instigate in his students. He supported freedom in solving artistic problems, provoked thinking and developed perception skills, while gradual increase of difficulty level of apparently simple tasks greatly stimulated his students' imagination. His original teaching program seems to be inspired by didactics according to Wojciech Jarzębowski who had classes in Lumps and Planes Composition at the Academy before the war. Like Jarzębowski, Hansen did not lecture art, but new artistic language that in the future they were free to "use or reject". He has taken a number of exercises from his predecessor, for instance The Composition of Many Profiles - Sculpting the Spatial Dimension, where he replaced the term "silhouette" with a "profile". Hansen, however, moved much further, practicing this in the sculpting and painting version, as a result painting developed space in the works by his disciples: Krystian Burda (1955/56) and Elżbieta Cieślar (1956/57). What is more, Hansen's students were preoccupied with the impression of the static and dynamic (Static Form and Dynamic Form) and the "translation" of ambiguous spatial relations between the elements that build up our surrounding (Making a Complex Form Legible).

Hansen used the devices he had designed to stimulate his students creative powers, as early as during the first year of their studies. For example, a device targeted at the Rhythm task, resembled a wooden board with gaps cut in it, so as one could observe the surrounding through these. While working with second year students, Hansen used a device for Making a Large Number of Elements Legible to select relevant means to perceive numerous elements in human surrounding, in order to group or frame them. Students were supposed to place wooden blocks in various configurations on a special, large plate. Their favorite exercise, however, was the Active Negative that involved architectonic space analysis. Towards the Open Form, the work by Hansen, explains this notion: "If (...) one were to make a hole in the ceiling and pour plaster in, one would get a mechanical, passive cast of the room, after casing had been removed. The Active Negative is the transformation of a passive negative by means of one's visual needs and impressions into a humanistic tool of visual impact". In 1955 Hansen, along with Emil Cieślar and Andrzej Wróblewski, made an active negative of his flat in Sędziowska street in Warsaw. The exhibition showed other active negatives i.e., of Euphemia café (Zygmunt Niziołek; 1959/60) and Culture cinema (Kazimierz Ryszka; 1961/62).

Photographs from the Academy of Fine Arts open air painting meeting in Skoki (1972) have been an evidence that Hansen appreciated photography. The "open air games" organized there can be regarded as the beginnings of art rejecting objects for the sake of actions performed in the space. In 1983 Hansen resigned his job at the Academy of Fine Arts, nevertheless his original didactic program has been considered by a number of artists a valuable contribution into their education. This is why besides historical objects, the exhibition has showed contemporary videos by first year students. Facing Hansen problems, such as Making a Geometric Lump Spatial or Time as a Composition Factor, they have proved that a photo camera and video camera are not merely registration, but also creation tools.

"After 30 Years. Look at the Faculty by Oskar Hansen", the Academy Salon Gallery, Warsaw, June - July 2013.