Lehigh University Art Galleries

Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA



Glen Hansen: Oil Paintings

A ten-year survey


Venice: Canzia, 1998, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, Private Collection


Painter Glen Hansen's compositions are inspired by architectural motifs and themes, ranging from Parisian rooftops and domes to New York City facades. The sharply-contrasted works of oil on canvas and masonite suggest a photographic view, with effects of atmosphere and perspective. Hansen travels to particular cities to discover what makes that place unique. "I want to relate to the viewer the excitement of discovering a structure for the first time."

Glen Hansen teaches at the School of Visual Arts, New York City and is represented by Fischbach Gallery. His paintings have been widely exhibited at regional museums and galleries, and are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and corporations including the General Electric Company, Exxon Corporation of Texas, NBC and Citibank/Citicorp, New York.

The exhibition, on view through August 1, 1999, is sponsored by Victoria and Robert Zoellner. Lehigh University Art Galleries programs are partially funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

Glen Hansen: Oil Paintings presents work accomplished over the last ten years by a dynamic and talented young American artist. Hansen's crisp compositions are inspired by architectural motifs and themes, ranging from Parisian rooftops and domes to New York City facades. The sharply contrasted works of oil on masonite suggest a photographic view, with effects of atmosphere and perspective.


An Interview Between the Artist and the Exhibition Curator

1. Ricardo Viera : As much as there is artistic discipline and technical mastery in your work, there is an immense sense of discovery and satisfaction. In other words, it seems as if you are having fun in your work. Am I reading it correctly?

Glen Hansen: The actual fun comes from traveling to a particular city to try and unmask what makes that place unique. One has to develop a personal vision and work with their art. One invents a language, then within that language one has the freedom to take chances. The chances are justified when you build a body of work and people are aware of your history. In the end your art will never let you down.

2. R.V.: Although it seems that you are not leaving any details to the viewer's imagination, the scale and sense of place in your work is very human and seductive. Are you telling us everything that is on your mind, or do you want the viewer to join in the discovery?

G.H.: I want to relate to the viewer the excitement of discovering a structure for the first time. The choice of image can determine the success or failure of the project. What you choose or what you edit is as important as what you paint.

In terms of scale and shape: My first series of paintings of cupolas and widows' walks dealt with the square format of the canvas, relating conceptually to the box-like construction of Victorian architecture. The square is a neutral shape that is formal.. It doesn't open up a space like a vertical or horizontal rectangle, but rather closes it down, thus creating tension or fiction.

Comparatively, the circular tondo extends this idea of creating a tension. The eye is forced to stay within the parameter of its border, with no place to escape. I want the architecture within the shape, as well as the design and composition, to tell the story. In my latest series of Venice, most of the paintings have a dominant foreground. Once you get through that, there is usually something of particular interest off in the distance. That is part of the discovery.

3. R.V.: What does art mean to you, and to society today?

G.H. :Painting, creating art is self-discovery.

4. R.V.: Do you find any difference between the so-called abstraction painting and the work that you do? Are you a photorealist? How do you categorize your work in terms of style or school?

G.H.: There is a definite difference between abstract painting and my painting. They dealt with spontaneity and expression, while mine deals with control and organization. I see my work somewhere between the Precisionists and the Photorealists.

5. R.V.: Are you influenced by the Old Masters? Are there other influences that go beyond the art world?

G.H.: Yes, that's basically where you start. Ingres is still someone that I always go back to, and I am never disappointed. I think we take different things from different artists. In terms of drawing, I'm still in awe of Ingres' proficiency as a draftsman. In terms of color and glazing, Maxfield Parrish created one of the most amazing surfaces in the history of art.

The most important influences are your contemporaries. The two most important influences for me are professors I met while studying at the School of Visual Arts. The first was Andy Gerndt. He made you feel that any mark you made on the surface was not only important to you, but important in the history of art. Secondly, Jack Endewelt, who showed me how to fall in love with the process of painting.

7. R.V.: Why are you most interested in environments and architecture?

G.H: It probably stems from growing up within a family of builders, people who took pride in the quality of work they produced. I understand building and materials. You have to paint what you know.

8. R.V.: How important is the technical aspect in your work, and to what extent does photography play a role?

G.H: Photography plays an important role. I have certainly been influenced by the photographs of the Precisionists more than the paintings. My process for a painting starts with on-site pencil and oil studies. I will usually photograph the building at different times of day to try to get the most interesting formation of cast shadows. Next, I edit the photographs and combine maybe two or three references.

9. R.V.: Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?

G.H.: I hope to continue my process of traveling, exploring and painting. There are many different areas of the world I have not seen, so the door is wide open for growth and discovery. Personally, I'd like to remain painting in my loft in New York City.

10. R.V.: How important is teaching to you? Is it an essential element for being a good artist?

G.H.: As much as I enjoy being an instructor at the School of Visual Arts, I find that I learn and grow more by talking with other friends who are artists.

Read more about Lehigh University Art Galleries in Resource Library Magazine.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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