Hartwig Knack, 2005
For some years Vienna based artist Hannah Stippl uses pattern rollers made of rubber as a structural starting point for her paintings. Formerly these rollers were used to apply flowery and ornamental patterns onto the walls of staircases, kitchens and living rooms. Hannah Stippl uses this, previously bourgeois wall decoration, nowadays often associated with happy past times for her engaged artistic comment.
The series "position desired_05", created within two and a half months (November 2004 to january 2005) deals with job applications in the security branch and private military companies, where high profit is tied together with high risk. The ten big canvases are specially made for her solo show "... no fear!" in the factory of the Kunsthalle Krems. Combined with quotations of texts from advertisments found in the internet, in this work the artist talks about current political themes, directs the view to the fragile condition of our society and does not avoid shake unspoken taboos and restrictions.
In the job applications chosen by Hannah Stippl jobseekers offer themselves as security guards and mercenaries for positions in zones of war and crisis. War experience, knowledge in how to handle different weapons, the readiness to kill, unscrupulousness and brutality, are the forefront qualifications the unemployed maintain in the spotlight of the competition for the most part. Therefore Hannah Stippl with this work series provides a deeply distressing look into the spectrum of madness of present "up-to-date" war. Her works provide a look behind the scene, they disclose once more that violence and cruelty long ago have reached a global dimension, are part of all day life and our civil society. Pieces of the advertising texts make the dimension of the topic visible; the idyll, which at times is unjustified proposed to her work is more fragile than ever:
• "Ready to move out and draw fire." (Chris Watson, Texas)
• "Willing to go anywhere…do anything!" (Carrie MacNeill, Kanada) "I am ready to work (in Iraq), the more risk the better." (Angela Boyd, Ohio)
• "I am currently working in Iraq on contract, doing interrogations on enemy pow’s. Qualified with several different weapons." (Roy Repasky, Texas)
• "Want to kill now. God bless our president!" (Daviechan, Washington, DC)
Collage, Ornament and Reality
Hannah Stippls new work pulls the spectator into a flickering wickerwork of vegetation, writing and ornament. Even though the flowery pattern change everything they catch hold of into a visual pleasure, her work is on principle more about a matter of playing with colours, text and form. Mostly coloured in typical military camouflage colours, the attentively executed and in detail arranged structures and flower collages always contain terms like deception, cover up, glossing over or embellishment.
When combined with applied texts pattern and ornament receive a sudden concrete allegoric and symbolic content. Stippl does not try to understand the principles of collage as a technical process primarily. With this method she pursues the intention to come closer to realities. As a "Critical Realist" she establishes connexions, interprets single phenomena as details of more extensive processes and appeals to the power of judgement of the spectator. Her works are works for dialogue. They create associations of meanings, raise questions to contribute to their answer, place topics to discussion in order to obtain clearness about it. The Graduate of the Vienna University of Applied Arts she reports realities which concern or affect more or less everybody, expresses her opinion about the phenomena she calls upon by releaving the documents (job advertisment) she uses to prove authenticity. Spectators of her work are urged to join the discussion.
With the trick to amalgamate ornamental pattern and text she suceeds in liberating the ornament of its only decorative function. This concerted action guarantees at last the realistic character of foremost abstract-ornamental seeming works. Suddenly patterns have the power to transport in their abstraction a content rich of different facets, to take over the function of a carrier symbolic of moral, social and political conceptions.
In this field of tension the artist consciously renounces in her statement the use of political emblems or other well known symbols of every day life in order to put her interest to the point. In the tradition of anti war art she acts comparatively subtile. Actual experiences or visions of the inferno of war like in the work of Otto Dix, George Grosz, Pablo Picasso, Leon Golub or Duane Hanson, cannot be found. Possible hostile actions and atrocity are anticipated by Hannah Stippl, but she neither names nor shows them explicitly. She counts on the enormous subversive power of her works, which is based on the fact that on the surface, they pretend to be harmless in order to make themselves heard at the right time with a powerful attack of surprise.