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Adi Holzer's Engravings and Heliographs in Timisoara.

Introduction at the Exhibition in Fundatia Interart Triade, Timisoara.

June 2005

Adi Holzer was born in 1936, at Stockerau, in Austria. He graduated from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1960, having studied with R. C. Andersen and Herbert Boeckl. In 1962 he moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, living today in both countries and transgressing borders, as a genuine postmodern spirit, in order to unite in one single art different national identities, languages, mentalities and cultures. 


The number of individual and group exhibitions organized mainly in Denmark, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Romania, Spain, USA and Japan is impressive: it by far transcends one hundred, but, as the artist himself confesses, it is quality and not quantity that counts. One cannot disagree with this statement: Adi Holzer is a real artist, and quality in his work is the result of a firm hand in tracing shapes, a courageous eye in associating colours and an immense pleasure in interpreting literary phenomena. 


His hand-coloured engravings inspired by Andersen’s tales, the heliography dedicated to Hölderlin, his watercolours, mosaics or simple drawings are all distinguished by both a surrealist form, in which Marc Chagall’s influence is obvious, and an expressionistic colour derived from Oskar Kokoschka’s paintings.

In general, the figures in Adi Holzer’s works are allegorical characters, projected against a vague but firmly drawn background. They all transmit simple messages, easily understandable since they are clear answers to the multitude of questions raised by life itself. Animated by an unusual vital drive, they have the force of the artist himself, augmented by his fight to understand a complex range of subconscious impulses and by the hot nerve of a subjective space with obvious integrating tendencies. 


The universe shaped by his violent, sometimes even aggressive colours seduces our eyes. It takes us out of the sad world of Andersen’s tales, of Hölderlin´s gloomy mind threatened by madness, and of the melancholy world of the circus, quite often depressing in spite of its vivid and exotic shows. Adi Holzer’s voluptuous inclination towards incandescent colours gives his sources an optimistic appeal. Their transposition from the sphere of prose or poetry to the personalized world of the artist, from a territory in which words create only shadowy shapes to a field of clearly visible contours implies an enriching of both literary and visual arts: Adi Holzer’s engravings push the literary texts, which have become static in their own perfection, to a greater carreer based on a complex verbal-visual intertextuality.

In spite of the two centuries which have already passed since the birth of the Danish writer, Adi Holzer feels atttracted to Andersen’s tales for several reasons. First, the language used by Andersen appears to Holzer of an incredible beauty. Second, since Andersen was also a painter and an actor of great potentialities, Holzer feels that they share a similar artistic complexity. Third, Holzer admires the way in which H. C. Andersen, born in a needy family, with a father who died early, an alcoholic mother and a sister driven to prostitution by poverty, refuses to be condemned by destiny and stands up to it through art. His imaginative powers save him: he is reborn like the Phoenix bird, undergoing a slow and labyrinthic initiation, similar to the transformation suffered by the ugly duckling which in the end becomes a majestic swan. 

The two artists are also connected by a certain form of modernist ambiguity. It is not the moral message that they question. The themes of the tales are simple and obvious: the five-century-old oak tree feeling sorry for the one-day life of the insect is punished for its pride by a tempest that uproots it in no more than a moment; the greedy emperor, desirous to have costly garments, falls victim, like so many ordinary people, to illusions and unfulfilled desires; the authenticity of a genuine princess, whose sleep is disturbed by a pea, cannot be imitated by fake aristocracy. It is only the fixed pattern of the fairy tale that the two artistst doubt. According to famous researchers in the field, fairy tales are reduced to thirty–two motifs, always the same even if their order and protagonists vary. But due to the structural ambiguity imposed by Andersen, they become an avanguard text, anticipating the fin-de-siècle modernism and influencing writers such as Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, R. L. Stenvenson, Karen Blixen and C. S. Lewis. The noble line of these creators has to include Adi Holzer as well, even if he resorts to a visual code and uses iconic instead of verbal signs. 

A completely different world is shaped in the watercolours drawn by Adi Holzer under the influence of Charlie Rivel and his family of clowns, well-known in the circus world. It is their adventurous, exotic and coloured universe that attracts Adi Holzer and turns his works into the shocking statements of a delicate and still powerful philosopher, who asks himself - as all clowns do - who we are , whence we come and where our place is. The angelic figure of his clown with wings becomes in fact the most suggestive symbol of an art which glorifies the sublime of everyday life and the beauty noticeable in comic gestures and ordinary landscapes. Due to these angelic characters, Adi Holzer‘s art goes beyond a superficial capturing of the moment and settles in the eternity of myth. It creates that kind of catharsis which we expect from all objects exhibited in a gallery and makes us understand that sometimes paintings or engravings, marked by the genius of a real artist, may transform simple images into archetypal truths endowed with the power of permanence.

Besides angelic clowns, one cannot ovelook the obsessive presence of devilish figures which add to Holzer’s works a note of temptation and vice. Without darkness we do not understand light, without evil there is no victory of good, and thus through Adi Holzer we discover the coincidentia oppositorum of spirituality, the Oriental yin and yang, the ambiguity of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. To link H. C. Andersen to Salman Rushdie through Adi Holzer’s exhibition at the “Triade” Gallery is not a mere exaggeration, but the result of an art well understood: one of its main functions is to connect the peaks of visual and literary cultures from parts of Europe so different as the Danish, German, Austrian, Anglo-Indian and Romanian ones. 


Opening such unexpected gates to dissimilar worlds, Adi Holzer simultaneously closes the door of his own labyrinth and catches us in it, prisoners of his art, to admire and enjoy it for ever. We are grateful that he crossed the continent and came to Romania in order to bring about a moment of inner cleansing in our souls, powerful enough to raise us through his art to the pure realm of the angels. 

To paraphrase a text included in one of his engravings, we all fall from time to time in the ditches of life, in the precipices of suffering and woe. However, we can always be saved when we manage to turn our eyes up towards the sky and the stars. If we understand this simple assumption, we can neither miss the philosophical depth of Adi Holzer‘s art nor the beautiful event of his exhibition launched in Timişoara. 

Prof. Dr. Pia Brînzeu
Vice-Rector at the University of Timisoara


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