English translations of the main chapters

Sculptures in Nature

Why «sculptures»?

The effect results from the shapes of the stones, their position and the – often coincidental – play of light and shadow. And, of course, the location of the event. This is how structures, figures, even figures with sometimes human traits are created. Nevertheless, I don’t call them «stone men» (colloquially Swiss German »Steimandli»), because first of all they often have feminine contours, I think, and secondly I would like to distinguish myself from the often trivial stone towers (which mostly consist of horizontally laid, rather flat stones) that are omnipresent on hiking trails. Therefore, I prefer to call my rather vertically stacked stone formations sculptures.

How does that hold – without any aids?

Exactly: Through gravity, balance. Of course, not all stones are suitable for such a repositioning. But starting from the point of support, every object has a vertical line of gravity. The object can sometimes be aligned around this line in an unusual way, for example by placing it on the ground. Among the infinite number of orientations (positions), there are ideally several possible positions or at least one durable one, depending on the shape of the object, the object’s weight and the micro conditions at the supporting point.

It is certainly a matter of practice to first select the stones according to this criterion. In other words, to judge which position is suitable – and this in combination with the adjacent objects. Secondly, it is a matter of practice to lift them in the anticipated position onto the pile (I have developed back-saving techniques), to place them there carefully and to bring them into a balanced position with the slightest changes. Considering the stability or rather fragility of the already existing – and with a view to a conceivable addition. This sometimes requires a certain amount of endurance.

The micro-structures of the material help when placing it on top of each other. Smooth stones are the most difficult, the more pointed, the worse. The easiest to put on top of each other are those with small corners, cracks, holes – or porous rock that can even be adapted, such as sandstone or coral rock. Even if it looks magical when two tightly rounded stones stand on top of each other – it is not impossible with the right amount of effort, a lot of patience and a lack of air movement. Even the smallest contact surfaces consist of at least three points that need to be found.

Where are these stone figures created?

Ideal places for my nature-orientated design – you could call them the so-called «landart» – are banks, beaches or half dry parts of brooks or rivers, where often many pebbles, small erratic blocks and other stones accumulate, so there is a choice. Sometimes I use stones that have been sorted out along fields. Or in the mountains, in scree slopes. On my travels I came across situations again and again, mostly by chance, that lent themselves to imposture. These places give the sculptures, statues, their natural stage. It is important to me to erect them in such a way that they are shown to their best advantage. In doing so, I am already thinking about the next step: holding on.

How long do the sculptures stand?

Depending on the situation, the stacks only last for short moments, for example, when wind comes up. Or also when I have built very risky, i.e. accepting a short half-life of a shaky thing to make it look great. I can aim for the longest possible durability, but this is usually at the expense of the design. Spectacular constructions are characterized by the fact that they look very daring and are accordingly fragile. The use increases with every stone. It is not uncommon for a sculpture that is already four or five pieces, for example, to collapse under my hands when I want to add another element. This is the most dangerous part; then I must quickly get my feet to safety. Whether I then start all over again depends on the situation.

Transience is part of the concept of «landart» and also of my stone stacking: the sculptures usually dissolve back into nature with the next gust of wind.

What do the photographs / videos show?

Due to the very limited life span of my stone sculptures, it makes sense to capture the results of my work photographically. The photographic staging is even part of the action. This has also developed over time. This means that when choosing the location, the intended position of a sculpture, I often think about how I can best photograph it here, i.e. according to the criteria of light incidence, shadows, background or accessibility from different angles.

In this way, a dynamic can be better emphasized, a movement, perhaps facial features caused by light and shadow, standing in relation to one another, several figures looking at one another, etc. But also here: I do not make any substantial changes in the image processing that do not show the object as it is (e.g. additional stones using Photoshop). Here I follow the same quasi ethical basic attitude as when I build.

Only in the last few years have I really experimented with photography and its processing, for example with backlighting, and more recently with video recordings. I have already processed the earlier photos into short video sequences for my YouTube channel. But the combination of videos and photos (and music) is again a creative, but complex hobby…

Related areas / objects

Only very rarely do I use other materials, such as pieces of wood, flotsam and jetsam or other materials. In my sculpture collection there is of course also room for the «real» works of this kind, which I have chiseled, milled, drilled and sanded from aerated concrete (Ytong). Or the structures made of cardboard.

Fotos / Videos are in the original section >Skulpturen

My Paintings

My paintings from the past decades can be differentiated by time periods, paint style and paint materials as well as motifs. They are separate from the miniatures and sculptures which I later describe.

After an early phase I created my first large format paintings in the 1970’s. This was followed by a productive and versatile, rather abstract phase in the early 1980’s, utilizing a lot of airbrush technique amongst others. Lastly, the phase after 2013 included the use of acrylic or oil paint on paper, cardboard, wood or canvas, where at times new and very representational motifs dominate.

In the beginning was a roll of paper

Already as a child I was drawing continuously in the sense of the word. There was this big roll of paper, approx. one foot tall, that my dad had brought from the office. I used it to draw a continuing story as I unwound the roll. It felt like a mile long.

Of course, while in school I learned a lot about all kinds of materials and processes, more or less using representational motifs while following the various curriculum requirements. I vividly remember the joyful moment in the 4th grade when we were allowed to use opaque paint (gouache) which came in large tubes, a first for me. I was fascinated by the process developing abstract progressions and compositions on paper.

Passion with ink and Ecoline® paint (liquid watercolor)

Drawing and creating handiwork was a lot of fun for me and I obviously had some talent. When it came to Visualized Geometry, I excelled to the top level. That’s where I learned precision drawing with ink. At first with conventional fountain pens that had a bad habit of frequently dripping. Later I used the more practical Rotring® ink pens.

While in secondary school I got to know Ecoline® ready to use liquid watercolor which I still use in some projects today. In upper-secondary school I was introduced to advanced painting techniques and materials through graduation. These included: mixing techniques, lithography and etching just to mention a few. Frequent visits to museums, graphic designers and art studios and of course the pop culture influenced my artistic expressions.

First large format paintings on wood

In the mid-seventies I got hold of some large wooden boards (27.5” x 19.7”) covered with the finest drawing paper. They were originally intended for technical drawings but ideal for my purposes. Using ink pens, coloring pencils and Ecoline® I created my first works in this large format and I was actually able to sell some of them to my colleagues.

The motifs were fantasy landscapes with weird vegetation, skewed perspectives and rock formations. Utilizing a technique by covering a painted landscape and adding a dark sky with black spray paint, made for a great effect. To refine the idea of a dark sky, I developed a method to add milky way-like star constellations using white spray paint. This resulted in a series of central perspective paintings which were exhibited for many years at the Federal Institute of Technology in a suburb of Zurich where my mother used to be active.

Influenced by music and other

During the same period, I was quite involved with music. While painting, I was always listening to music, different sounds and compositions such as Pink Floyd or Genesis for instance, helped me discover inner images. I was also a great fan of the British progressive rock band Yes, their music as well as the art of their album covers. No doubt, the influence by Roger Dean cannot be overlooked, although I could never reach his perfection. I was equally fascinated by H.R. Giger, a Swiss artist, known for his creations of technoid man-machine beings. Overall, I was fascinated with the results of airbrush art. I wanted to try it as well – that’s how I went from using spray cans to the advanced airbrush.

Multidimensional airbrush fantasies

The airbrush (I soon had a whole variety of them) introduced a new era. I experimented with different paints, spray nozzles, pressure settings and stencils. The handling of an airbrush is quite demanding and takes a lot of practice. I developed a special style of freehand movement without guidance and was able to create merging and intertwined shapes using repetitive movements of the nozzle. It allowed me to open up in a big way what I used to put down on paper in a limited style, using ink or various pens. It looked all very spacey and at the same time multidimensionally intertwined.

The motion pulls to a center
Enters a vortex
Disappears into nothing
And emerges again from the abyss
To merge with the old path

Spray visions, cosmic images and doodles

In reference to the 1980 exhibition «Spray visions, cosmic images and doodles» I wrote: «My earlier world view is today’s valid foundation as well as the antithesis for my new paintings. The vastness of the cosmos stands in opposition to the infinity of the microcosm. Both limit values are just as unimaginable as they are fascinating for human kind and we are trying relentlessly to understand the connection between the laws of space, time and mass of natures tangled game.»

A new start in 2013: Acrylic paint, oil paint, canvas

My paintings from the 1970’s to the 1990’s turned out to be richly diverse. Amongst various techniques, I always returned to using airbrush. I made small studies, miniatures and sketches for larger projects, even while traveling. But soon after I was more than busy with family and work and did not find the time and leisure to be creative. In 2013 I eventually made a new effort to paint with acrylic paint, less often with oil paint. The motifs were similar to my earlier works, but I also employed totally new views and even tried to paint representational objects. So, for instance the series of magic books: shelves holding books with decorated spines, painted on wood or canvas. Other examples were archaic city scapes, concrete and realistic situations, portraits, colored underwater fantasy worlds (those were originally captured on a sketch pad in black and white during my diving vacation), nudes and masks. Occasionally I found myself using again motifs with central perspective, a viewpoint I engaged at earlier times.

A specialty are the transitional forms to small works and doodles which I put on paper during the whole time period. Examples of the mixed and transitional forms are colored motifs containing graffiti, comic, or elements of movement and are mostly drawn on paper up to letter size. The «Doodles and Miniatures» are described in a separate section as well as the «Sculptures in Nature» that I built whenever I saw a chance.

Fotos are in the original section >Bilder

Frank Hänecke 2020
Translation: Wolfgang Schoeler

Miniatures, Drawings & Scribbles

In everyday life, in meetings, during telephone calls, lectures, conferences or wherever else, scribbles, aesthetically loosening miniatures, drawn commentaries are casually created.

Some undergo a metamorphosis, often years later: digital restoration with the means of photo optimization, enlargement, rotation, a remake in color, hand-painted or with Photoshop, exempted, newly assembled presentation, ennobling framing.

In this way, the randomly thrown away, the relaxing, concentration-promoting side effect with materials that are just available (such as a host’s writing pad) becomes a form of presentation that requires close, precise observation in order to capture movement, entanglement and complexity in the smallest space.

Why doodling?

Much has been written and researched about this variant of being creative in everyday life. It is very common, even in the highest circles, and is practiced by people with or without any talent for drawing – although it is probably difficult to define general quality criteria here. Courtesy? Harmony? Recognizability? Certainly a matter of taste.

But there is evidence for the positive effect on those who do «it», the «doodling», the scribbling, the «scribbling», the decorating of free corners on the paper. So according to the motto «How Doodling can make you smarter, happier and more productive». This is why it is even a method of art therapy or even the subject of psychological analysis; as in graphology, of course, there are countless attempts at interpretation. However, I don’t think much of the more esoteric attempts to equate symbols used with states of mind (in the style of «left-handed spirals indicate a need for sociality» etc.). I also do not think that the motivation is mainly to be found in boredom. On the contrary, scribbling often carries me through very tense situations.

Of course, some people have already dared to exhibit the results of this kind of activity (I myself had already added doodling to my first exhibition of – large-format – paintings for «Cosmic & Spray Visions» in 1980). But it is risky to expose oneself in galleries, because this genre is often ridiculed. Because it was not created for art’s sake? Because framing something like this is seen as megalomania? I understand these concerns and also the difficulties some people have in accessing these miniatures.

Discoveries, offered associations

Many of the forms remain in the uncertain, mysterious, but nevertheless arouse associations: They call up the brain’s own bio-algorithms, which want to recognize patterns and figures and explain what the eye delivers: isn’t that a face, an animal, a plant, a mythical creature? Man has a tool for this reflex ex works. This can be deepened: Technical terms like «confirmation bias» or «pareidolia» lead to (media) communication and interpretation phenomena in which the use or recognition of patterns plays an important role – a field of cognitive psychology and also of narration.

Conversely, I sometimes only discover the meaning later. Sometimes patterns develop consciously while drawing, I always fall back on a proven repertoire, such as circular shapes that can be seen as eyes. Or I use proven forms from the graffiti or comic industry, for example to indicate movement.

Opening up layers and shapes

On closer inspection, the works can be travelled – from one level to the next, into the depths, in islands of meaning, which in turn corresponds to their creation. Here, scenes are lined up, small decorated elements that complement each other to form a form – hopefully. Therein lies a challenge in their construction: do the lines and structures fit together, does the whole thing still somehow respond?

Multiple views through rotation

Some forms have multiple potential: they can be rotated – and thus enable completely different approaches. In this way there is also added value. This is, by the way, one of the main reasons for not using a signature, apart from its rather disturbing effect. The twisting effect is not simply a coincidence; I also twist the page when creating miniatures. I even claim that some of them «work» from all sides.

Doodles now and then also in color

Some of the mostly black and white drawings are suitable for coloring. Thus new originals are created, but also new interpretations. Colors give new structure, nourish the pattern-seeking consciousness, and define spaces of what belongs together and what is separated.

Thus, viewing and interpretation is a complex process that varies from person to person and that triggers different results and effects. Some people cannot get involved with such small things, they do not react or even defend themselves, others only perceive the aesthetics of the whole form, but not its interior etc.

To the material for doodling

All kinds of drawing pens were and are used for the work – what is just about to be grasped: ballpoint pens, felt-tip pens, pencils, sometimes a fountain pen or an ink pen. Only in the last few years I try, whenever possible, to have halfway professional material with me that I can fall back on spontaneously, i.e., for example, pens of different strengths with ink or pigma ink that do not fade (as they are also used for manga comics). I had not thought about this before.

Transformations, reconstructions

The vast majority of the scribbles go into the wastebasket, and are therefore not collected for preservation. Others were somehow kept, not systematically recorded. And then dug out again.

A specialty is the restoration of old originals that have faded, for example, because they were drawn with non-light-resistant pens or on shimmering paper.

To repair or beautify them, digital image processing is used (I usually work with Adobe’s Fireworks and Photoshop): sharpening contrast, correcting tonal value or – more elaborately – working with a digital brush and eraser (for example to erase lines of a checked, lined paper). This is how new originals are actually created, even if they are «only» available in digital form. But this is not always enough. So I manually traced some miniatures on the light desk. Now more than ever these are «reconstruction originals».

Miniatures, drawings or pictures?

There are mixed forms: For example, small works that I draw larger. Or deliberately larger works in the style of the small forms, reproductions on A3 or more – all this leads to the large formats. So this is where the boundaries to other genres are served. Sometimes it is not clear to which category such a hybrid work should be assigned; the miniatures or the >paintings, the painting results.

Fotos / Videos are in the original section >Miniaturen

Frank Hänecke 2020

My latest exibition @ MAZ

Miniatures & Doodles in the MAZ-Gallery
August 17 to September 26, 2020

MAZ (Swiss School of Journalism), Murbacherstrasse 3, 6003 Lucerne

«On display were drawings and scribblings by Frank Hänecke, which were casually created in everyday life, during meetings, telephone calls, lectures, conferences: aesthetically loosening miniatures, drawn commentaries. Some of them have undergone a metamorphosis: digital restoration with the means of photo optimization, enlargement, rotation, a remake in color, hand-painted or with Photoshop, exempted, newly assembled presentation, ennobling framing.

The private, randomly thrown away, the concentration-promoting, relaxing side effect with materials that are just available (such as a MAZ writing pad) thus becomes a public form of presentation that requires close, precise observation in order to capture movement, entanglement and complexity in the smallest space.

Frank Hänecke, MAZ director of studies since 2000, has prepared a comprehensive selection of such works for the first time in the premises of the Swiss School of Journalism.»

Scribbles & Doodles as gallery objects?

Do you also often reach for a pen and scribble away? At meetings, during telephone calls or lectures – even if they are interesting and important? Do you often create drawings with patterns, figures, ornaments without any creative intention, but are still able to concentrate on an external input, such as a speaker, and perhaps even focus better? Then you are not alone.

Many people use their own doodles (scribbles) to bind excess energy, to intuitively stop themselves from digressing or daydreaming, and to be able to concentrate better.

Positive side effects

This creates a kind of de-stress, a constant, efficient attention, and sometimes creative potential is released. The free, random, quasi uncontrolled drawing brings out the subconscious – similar to dreams. This is not necessarily artistically valuable from the outset. Terms like (German) «Kritzelei», «scibbling» or «doodling» therefore have a pejorative connotation. After all, they also refer to results that serve a different primary purpose, namely to be aesthetically pleasing exhibits of a gallery. Often they are also created on random documents, decorate written documents or small pieces of paper with notes and the like. Is it possible, should such things be made public and exhibited «properly»? One can. Especially if the line is drawn a little further.

A gallery experiment with material from four decades

Since I have kept some original material from university lectures, later meetings, conferences or telephone conversations for years (which hardly happens otherwise), I have collected a large amount of material and thanks to a suggestion I got the opportunity to do so. So in 2019/2020 a collection of originals, reconstructions, postcolorizations and other metamorphoses was created, most of them newly framed. Since this refinement leads away from the original doodling, I call the works in my catalog raisonné «miniatures», even though some enlargements are shown for exhibition purposes. The exhibits prepared in this way are shown in Lucerne, in the premises of the Swiss School of Journalism MAZ, where I also work.

Published on my LinkedIn-Account, Summer 2020
Frank Hänecke