Opening Speech



Life, Stillness, Fear and Death – The paintings of Hans Sisa

Austria is a fortunate land, in that it is blessed with excellent artists. It’s no secret that Austria’s cultural and artistic influence has shaped, through its major figures and renowned artists, the fields of literature, architecture, music and art within the entire German speaking world – the Golden Ages of the 14th, 15th centuries, then again in the Baroque, later 18th century and the middle of the 19th century as well. The 20th century has also brought forth artists who have upheld Austria as a land of the highest artistic standards worldwide. 

Hans Sisa belongs to this illustrious group without a doubt.  I met him personally 12 or 13 years ago, through my acquaintance with his wife Sophia Larson. She contacted me about an exhibition – for her husband, painter and singer Hans Sisa. I found it curious that such a busy artist herself would be taking care of appointments for other artists. Dramatic soprano Sophia Larson is at home in the leading opera houses of the world – Her powerful renditions of Elektra, Turandot and Isolde are well known from Bayreuth to Verona and New York. What I didn’t know at that time but realized soon thereafter, was that this married couple embodies a most fruitful symbiosus in art - in which music and painting come together equally, primarily for the benefit of the public. Other artists also benefit however, through the performance opportunities provided by the MALERFEST festival produced by Hans Sisa and Sophia Larson every 3 years.We should also mention various events such as “Menschen für Menschen” [Humans for Humanity] with Karl Böhm as well as the “Gegen das Vergessen” [Against Forgetting] with the “Entartet” [Denounced Art] presentation in the Stadthalle Ybbs.

Hans Sisa’s work has been shown in numerous foreign and domestic exhibitions, most recently in Estland’s capital city Tallin and in various museums. Both artists come from the region of Upper Austria and have fully dedicated their life’s blood to their art since their youth. Art which fascinates a public of many lands and many tongues, in its dramatic facets, tones, colors and forms:the paintings of Hans Sisa. 

Although the paintings speak for themselves, I would like to share some of my own thoughts on this most interesting exhibit. The fact is, Hans Sisa the man is a pleasant, lovable person. This in itself begins the conflict: The paintings of Hans Sisa are a far cry from “pleasant” or even “comfortably sound” –  But exactly this is the duty of the artist. Because our world is not “comfortably sound”, It never was and it never shall be.

Fabric of ruin and destruction, bringer of catastrophe – devastation and death are normal components in the process of nature in the daily lives of man. And that which remains intact appears to be a thorn in the side of humanity: The natural consequences of man’s destructiveness, War, Hunger, Poverty, Exile, Torture, Pain, Death – Demons of humanity embody the lowest and most horrible lusts of man –

Which brings us to the first of the two main themes in this presentation: “The Demonic”. Hans Sisa knows of the existence of the demonic and documents this in his paintings. And takes it even further: He interprets the Demonic in Man. To enter into Hans Sisa’s painted works is to explore the darkest depths of man’s deprivation and ruin. Manifested in his expressive paintings are the terrors of the world. In the foreground is Death; the Apocalypse is inevitable. The most terrifying aspect of this painter’s conscious journey into the dark animalistic depths of man is that, whether or not humanity falls or is knocked down, ruin not always recognized or evaluated – Man (and this is proven by history) is neither willing nor able to climb out of this dark, horrible cesspool pit at all. Death and devastation accompany us practically from the cradle; humanity has in common its need for destruction, hunger for power, greed, aggression – and stupidity. Collective societal and political conventions propogate a continuing tradition of bullying force,  supremism and the total degeneration of feeling. This instigates a parallel rise in the readiness for violence and easy manipulation of the masses by the powerful and their puppets – All of this is depicted in Sisa’s paintings as an impressive summary of our times. That those who are currently active in these roles are no different from the past or from the future in their lust for destruction. At best are the efforts of others coming into play. Human life, human existence is in fact a dance with death. Hans Sisa describes this with his expressive, emotional, pictorial vocabulary in his paintings. 

This exhibition has however another theme as well: “SILENTIUM” – Stillness.These paintings have to do with humanity as well, with its life and above all its behaviour. We live in a loud, fast, hectic time.And what is unfamiliar terrifies us. Stillness means danger – because we miss the familiar noise, we appear to be deaf. The evil of stillness seems to threaten us, we become helpless because we cannot hear the enemy, can’t describe him. Silentium. Stillness. Also the stillness of the night can produce perilisation – All of nature is still as soon as the darkness breaks. And darkness is full of  lurking demons, who can neither be seen nor heard – but are there. Blindness also means stillness – the darkness is their companion. And deafness means stillness – isolation, when one cannot hear, or cannot be heard. Dumbness is also a child of stillness. When one doesn’t raise his voice to injustice. This is the type of SILENTIUM the painter Hans Sisa despises most. He cannot remain still to all that is happening. He desires and needs to shake up humanity with his paintings. To cause us to think, to break out of this circle of blindness, deaf and dumb-ness and to recognize the truth. Also to recognize the demons for what they are – the devastation, the ruin, the false promises that all lurk here. However there is also a positive stillness – to be still within, to be one with stillness, which seems for us Godlike in its peacefulness. This makes us strong. Whereas the previously mentioned ambivalence to these themes will be clarified anew. 

And finally the artist returns to that of total stillness: The Eternal Stillness of Death. This is the only one from which absolutely none of us can be spared. We must accept that. This is the path’s end, the finale of the Dance with Death that we call Life - With which the thematic circle of this extraordinary exhibition of paintings comes to a close.

by Prof. Gertrude Haider-Grünwald

Director of the City Gallery of Traun and President of the „Dr. Ernst Koref - Foundation“  Linz