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Touch of Venice

In the exhibition “Touch of Venice”, Hako Hankson and Hans Weigand meet Nina Gospodin. Venice is the common denominator.

Hako Hankson is currently occupying the Cameroon pavilion at the Biennale, Hans Weigand is showing his large-format woodcuts at the Palazzo Pisani Santa Marina at the same time and Nina Gospodin once developed the entire formal language of her painting in Venice.

The works of these three artists are like windows into another world. Traditional techniques meet pop-cultural codes and myths meet the present. There is no other place in the world where this can be juxtaposed as well as in Venice during the Biennale. A touch of Venice can be experienced from June 18 as part of the “Touch of Venice” exhibition at AG18 in Vienna.

Hako Hankson 

Hako Hankson, born in 1968 in Bafang, Cameroon, now lives and works in Douala. Aa a self-taught artist, whose real name is Gaston Hako, he dedicated himself to painting and the formative influences of his youth early on. His father, a sculptor and musician at the Royal Palace, shaped Hankson’s animistic beliefs, which strongly influence his work to this day.

Animism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value of sentient beings. Unlike humanism, animism does not exclude non-human sentient animals simply because they do not belong to the human species.

Hankson’s works are characterized by the use of masks, tribal figures, and a careful selection of colors, presenting a concentrated depiction of Africa. The masks serve not only as regional and cross-cultural symbols but also as a key element of animism, bridging the gap between body and soul, the here and the afterlife.

“My father, for his part, drew me into animist beliefs: for example, by using masks and statuettes  in a dialogue with the afterlife, and that’s how I came to understand the power of masks, what they could carry as a spirit, a soul, something subtle that we can’t control.”

Hankson’s paintings are directed at both his homeland and the world, aiming to convey a contemporary image of Africa that preserves its tribal nature. The subjectivity of the cultural context is maintained alongside a universalistic form language, inspired by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dubuffet, and Antoni Tàpies. This formalistic approach reflects both the European, often distorted aesthetic references to originally African imagery and the sources of inspiration from Hankson’s youth.

This year, Hankson is participating in the Venice Biennale, where he will be exhibiting at the pavilion of his home country, Cameroon.

Hans Weigand

Hans Weigand, born in 1954 in Hall in Tirol, grew up in Absam and studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna under Oswald Oberhuber from 1978 to 1983. In the 1990s, Weigand lived in Los Angeles for several years, collaborating with artists such as Raymond Pettibon and Jason Rhoades. Influenced by the West American art scene and the musical subculture, he developed a unique artistic language that powerfully combines visual art, pop culture, urban landscapes, and socio-critical themes.

Weigand innovatively uses traditional techniques like woodcut to create complex, apocalyptic scenarios that deconstruct and collage everyday phenomena and identities. His works are characterized by subversive humor and the use of symbols from religion and war, enabling a multifaceted and critical engagement with contemporary issues. With the recurring motif of the surfer, Weigand initiates an intermedial and temporal discourse that references both classical Renaissance woodcut nudes and the aesthetics and motif of the wave in traditional Japanese woodcuts. The figure of the surfer embodies themes of freedom and risk-taking as well as an existential, individual struggle and failure. The depiction of the carefree surfer from American pop culture is humorously contrasted with apocalyptic scenarios as he attempts to escape a looming, suggested apocalypse.

His works have been exhibited in numerous renowned art institutions, including the Secession, MAK, and 21er Haus in Vienna, as well as internationally at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York and London, the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich, and the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden. In 2022, the Albertina in Vienna showcased a selection of his latest works, placing traditional techniques in a contemporary context.

Currently, Hans Weigand is represented at the Venice Biennale in the Palazzo Pisani Santa Marina.

Nina Gospodin 

Nina Gospodin, born in 1984 in Hamburg, studied art at renowned institutions such as the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, the Academy in Venice, and Cooper Union in New York City. These influences are reflected in her work, which combines traditional techniques with modern approaches.

Gospodin explores the relationships between concepts and ideas in her art, particularly the boundaries and shifts between function and freedom. Her works are characterized by the modular use of stencils, which are constantly transformed into new constellations and figurations. A central element of her work is the continuous examination of materials regarding their properties and qualities. She makes heavy materials appear light and rough fabrics seem delicate through direct interaction with the materials.

For the past two years, she has been working in Venice on a series of watercolors that depict abstracted impressions from the city’s nooks and corners. These new forms are used as stencils for her large-format series “Nuovi Angoli – Nuove Forme.” Her works blend formalism with procedural approaches, shaping her unique artistic language.

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