20.04.23 —


Hans Lemmen

Hans Lemmen - untitled, 2018

"The feeling of immediate contact with the past." This is how historian Johan Huizinga in 1920 described the feeling he called the historical sensation. It arises from seeing or touching an object, exploring a location or discovering a story between the lines of a historical document.

In the moment of historical sensation, time does not exist for a moment. In our minds, in that moment, everything is intertwined: nothing is becoming, nothing was. All is. It is walking through a landscape where present and past mingle into stories that invoke both our knowledge and our imagination. It overwhelms and overwhelms us with the sense of being able to step over the layers of time. It is one reason why historians consider the discovery and preservation of artifacts essential and why archaeologists sometimes scratch millennia-old stories out of the ground with the utmost caution.

When I first visited Hans Lemmen's studio in early 2020, I found all of these elements reflected in the many works on display. Even the unfinished work already had the same narrative potential as the historic landscape I had to drive through to get to his renovated square farmhouse. He himself calls it an agricultural desert. The hills are indeed served with plow lines and the slope there has been muffled quite a bit by centuries of human tillage. But when they are plowed, spearheads, potsherds and other artifacts surface that prehistoric man left behind when the first agricultural settlements of Europe took shape there. Anyone who, like Hans Lemmen, walks his dog through that landscape every day almost has to let his imagination run wild to see, among the fields, windmills and high-voltage pylons, stories that give the walk meaning.

In the world of Hans Lemmen, the blank page doesn't really exist. His work is typified by an enormous layering that already starts from the paper used itself. With an enormous sense of materiality, a large dose of intuition and even a touch of humor, he draws, scratches and smudges landscapes, scenes and objects on sheets of paper that he has previously allowed to be walked on by dogs and chickens that leave traces of dirt and paint. He also edits a series of archival photographs obtained from archaeologists studying the Sahara and Canary Islands. He scratches away parts of them, manipulates pieces with charcoal, bringing out his stories. Mostly the ancient relationship between man, animals and landscape is portrayed, but elements from the present also get their part.

Most of Hans' work bears no title. It is untitled, so the story only begins with our perception. Although sometimes very strange, or just recognizable scenes always take hold of our imagination, the artist does not steer us in one well-defined direction. All layers are there, without any hierarchy of space or time. Nothing becomes, nothing was. All is.