Christine Strelan - Between the Covers


Harry Rand

Taschen 2003

How little you need to live. How silly to ask for more. What would happen if people, instead of asking for more and more, would ask for less and less? They would be happier and healthier... Friedensreich Hundertwasser is an artist, philosopher, social revolutionary, architectural activist and Grand Loon. Laurie Axtens can only dream of lunacy this grand.

Hundertwasser sees the world as a vibrant, magical place, beauty and wonder lurking in ordinary fields and streets. His paintings of landscapes and towns are brilliantly coloured and almost hallucinogenic in their perception. Imagine Van Gogh if he was happy and youd be getting close. For me, pictures are gateways through which I can burst into a world which is at once very close to us and very distant. And this is Paradise. We are inside it, we are imprisoned in it, and yet some inexplicable power denies it to us. Some of his works possess the naive glory of childrens pictures; joyful, idiosyncratic visions where anything is possible, luminous maps of Dreamland. Paintings titled The Windows Homesickness, and Grass For Those Who Cry make absolute sense once you surrender to Hundertwasser-world.

But its not all Tripper Heaven. He was an ecologist before the term was invented, and put his beliefs into practice. Passionate about the need for more humane architecture, he designed and constructed extraordinary buildings, with meadows on their rooves, trees growing out of windows and environmentally friendly waste and power systems. He transformed an ugly power station in his native Austria, leaving it as beautiful as a temple. His ideas for high-density housing combine Gaudi-like aesthetics with intense reverence for the natural world: The man-tree relationship must assume religious proportions.

Like most Taschen books, this one is exquisitely presented, and the reproduction quality is high. The text allows Hundertwasser to tell his own story, and his eccentric world-view is consistent and convincing. He has devoted his life to resisting the straight line, the right angle and the autocratic mind that goes with them. Austria should make him a national hero, and Id like to invite him to Nimbin.

Books reviewed are available at the Book Warehouse in Keen Street, Lismore, and at Lismore Shopping Square.

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