Between Hope and Fear
I like Hannelore Fehse’s pictures, but I rarely linger in the villages that they depict. I got
to know Aufhausen, Scharenstetten, Nellingen and Temmenhausen by passing through these
villages or while hiking on the Swabian Alb. The buildings in these locations are not
memorable. Most of one’s attention is devoted to the country road traversing nearly every
parish on its way to the autobahn. There are few public places left and it’s a pleasant surprise if
one comes across a bakery or a pub. Nothing has moved without a car for a long time.
In contrast to Fehse’s paintings, the ground isn’t turquoise and the sky isn’t dark brown.
The houses in those villages are neither painted in colours nor do they have black roofs. There are
doors and windows and mostly a car or some agricultural machinery standing on the drive. In
the row behind, photovoltaic devices decorate the roofs, gleaming blue and gray. At the
entrance to villages, I come across buildings with dormer windows and conservatories. In
contrast, Fehse’s paintings don’t display people, animals, trees or vehicles. She retains the
overhang of the roof solely for the swallows’ nests. To call Hannelore Fehse a realist would be
inappropriate. She can be more accurately described as a person who is putting things straight
and paying attention to clarity. This requires distance.
In her paintings nothing is narrated. Anyway, this would have been impossible, because the
villages and houses are seen while driving past by car, by railway but certainly not on foot. Like
a fleeting glance from a vehicle, these buildings seem to glide past. The impression reflects
their facades and roofs. By expanding these to monochrome surfaces and by aligning them
with a point outside the picture, the artist is enforcing the dynamic of transition.
Fehse’s view is neither directed towards town hall or church, nor in direction of nursery school
or sports hall. She is looking on relics of a rural era. The buildings stem from the time of
“gavelkind”, when house and farm were divided according to the number of sons. Over many
generations, such properties bore the fruit of diminishment as well as the lifelong attempt to
compensate for the loss by renting ground. A farm consisted of barn, stables and sheds. The
occupants revealed their character right at the gate: both leaves could be opened to
accommodate the carriage, people entered through a door and there was just a flap for the
cats. Different parts of the buildings were recognisable: the part for the farmer and his family,
the one for the grandparents and that for a maidservant and farm hand. The dwellings for the
livestock could be spotted from outside: stables for horses, cows, pigs and chicken. House and
farm dwelt under a common roof, made up from different inclined surfaces. On one hand,
parts of this arrangement can be traced in the pictures.
On the other hand, they contain the push for modernisation which occurred during the 60’s
and 70’s, deserting small details for larger modules and variety for economic efficiency.
Many farmers decided to leave. Fehse’s architectural textures tend towards single buildings, they
tend towards abstraction . They are looked at, but they don’t look back.
A different regime would be represented by the presence of livestock, the use of hand-carts
and dung-heaps which have been piled up and established for generations. These images
would reflect a bygone era. In some places the gap of one or two generations just allows a
view of the building structure. Fehse’s buildings transform the development which has gone on
for generations into a substrate, they are close to architectural models. By painting them, the
artist effectively rebuilds them and erects the framework of a once rural settlement which has
undergone a structural change.
Hannelore Fehse applies strong contrasts. A brightly illuminated wall directly adjoins an unlit
part. A spotless white face of a building supports a roof dark as if it were night. The artist is
freeing herself from concrete lighting conditions; she leaves the constraints of the moment
and creates her own time. There, buildings are emerging as if from memory. Presumably this is
the reason for the tranquillity.
Between the extreme of drawing and painting she is clearly moving towards painting, with a
strong inclination towards graphic art. She creates herself a constructive framework, defines
the outlines and opens the areas. She removes the depth of space and dissolves the volumes.
By means of positive-negative effects she turns certain properties into something like an
Reduction doesn’t mean just omitting something; it equally stands for moving from a specific
to a general approach. Fehse’ paintings contain both specific and general approaches. The
buildings in the villages display specific differences, while in her paintings, to a certain extent,
they become unspecific. By the removal of trees and streets, horizon and surroundings, the
artist eliminates their singularity. However, in return the typical regional characteristics are
Hannelore Fehse can be called a painting chronicler. The subjects she captures in her pictures
are in the course of vanishing, in many places they have nearly disappeared. The artist
recollects them once again. She is alternating between the hope, that the proportions of these
buildings and villages tell us the story of beauty, which is worth keeping and the prophesy that
it might be too late. She is alternating between what she is able to perceive and what she
must see. Her paintings contain desire and sadness. The change will continue, we cannot stop
it, but we may regret it and join the artist in calling it a loss.
Dr.Uwe Degreif, Museum Biberach, Braith-Mali-Museum