Hans Egede Scherer “Eeehs ursprung” / Notes on process, research and discourse


Essay for Hans Egede Scherer exhibition Eeehs ursprung, at BABEL visningsrom for kunst, Trondheim, Norway

In art, the notion of a research process separate from the production makes no sense, because production begins with the first step, regardless of the materiality things may acquire. When the artist-researcher comes forward or is introduced as such, they seem to create a new type of artist, as if art were not complex and thought-provoking enough in the first place. The production of an image is always what is most interesting in art — a point not purely related to visuality. When an artist conceives a performance, for instance, they may think: What image does this performance produce? What is the result of this play? Unfortunately, the caricature of research in art — of research for the sake of appearance — is rather depressing and tends to bring us closer to a certain mediocrity. 

António Olaio, in: Wait, Berardo Museum, Stolen Books, Lisbon, 2019, p. 39

When thinking about this idea of the research process as production, the work of Hans Egede Scherer comes to mind as exemplary. Scherer’s work starts with an idea that isn’t pre determined. Even if the final destination is the most important, what we see as the work in space, the journey or the process of making the work also plays a fundamental part. Carefully selected materials are chosen to work with, and these inform the artist’s interests. Here we can see a clear thread that links Hans diverse practice, and that is the idea of Language. Language as a concept, as a tool for communication, but also language as form, its physical manifestation. When Scherer cuts and dissects, reassembles and glues printed matter such as a dictionary, or the bible, or supermarket advertising brochures, or, as in the case of the current exhibition, newspapers collected since he moved to Norway a few months before this exhibition, he draws our attention to what and where we are today, a post industrial information society. Consequently Scherer’s practice is marked by a seemingly ceaseless desire to study the world in which we live. 

Hans Egede Scherers work engages with language and non-verbal communication: one always has to experience the piece, feel it and understand it on a level that transcends words. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to translate what it is. One can point out the intelligence, his sensibility, intuition and reason to which he creates and manipulates materials – like the pigments crafted from oxidation of metals – or the way these same materials explores conceptual ideas of duality, heaviness and lightness, density, mass and weight, as manifest in the physical and poetic tension generated in the use of concrete, paper, glass, sponges, metal, wood, handmade soap among others; One can point: his approach to a non hierarchy of disciplinary categories – blurring painting, collage, drawing, sculpture, text and installation with a rigorous approach to architecture and the space were the work is presented; One can point: his refined visual aesthetics and the balance to which his procedures, physically manifest in the work and intellectually reverberate in the viewer – leaving us, as viewers, with a long lasting, profoundly moving, intense and intellectually stimulating experience.

Scherer’s recent work has been focused on the research and experiment with the manipulation of certain materials, the poetic and conceptual qualities they emanate and the tensions they can create on a psychoanalytical and meta-linguistic level. Its time and process-based approach materialise in works that have a profound resonance. In the exhibition “Eeehs ursprung” [meaning the origin of Eeeh] Scherer continues to develop this approach. In a series of sculptures, paintings and collages that involve actions such as collecting and cutting (newspapers), crushing and grinding (charcoal), assembling (diverse found and other materials), painting, drawing, gluing, all can be seen in an horizontal, non hierarchical way, as the work emerges from this process of subtraction and addition, in its eventual final form. In each piece, in the end, there is a formal balance that can be equated to some kind of fundamental truth. The works become a visual statement that have a peculiar clarity about them. They are restrained, almost elegant objects, but also simultaneously, sometimes, expressive and violent, as if hinting at a more subconscious violent disruptive or destructive force. The works have a manual, almost warm, human feeling. They aren’t cool industrial minimalist objects, even if some can be reminiscent of it, but more like artefacts of a future past, or of a parallel universe. There is always a poetic quality about Scherer’s work, akin to a revelation or a contemplation piece. But these are works that, above all, scrutinise the viewer, not in terms of meaning but its assertion in the moment, a confrontation that creates a state of heightened alert. For example in the series of abstract paintings and collages one recognise small figurative fragments: images of crystals and temples, some kind of esoteric symbolic plethora of visual mystical devices, but one is uneasy or unsure about it all; is it a play, a kind of sample, like a DJ of ironic psychedelic nostalgia, or is Scherer here actually showing us a portal to his inner most intimate interior universe? These questions remain open, as it should, because Scherer’s work is neither autobiographical nor didactic. It exists by itself, in the close relation that it establishes with the viewer, in a constant negotiation between what is revealed, its materiality, and all its potential meanings, and its open ended significance. 

Some artists resist classification, in all terms, they live and work and continue to make work in a field that is outside the mainstream, the superficial, the forced or fake investigative driven discourse. They are humble and honest and profound. For those we pay attention and we are grateful. 

 João Leonardo

Klippan, February 2021