With a name like Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, is it any wonder that this Austrian artist believed that the colourful, the abundant, the manifold, is always better than mediocre grey and uniformity. I’ve long since given up any pretensions about knowing my Art and have resolved to like what I like without trying to justify or explain. Until taken to the Hundertwasser museum in Vienna, I’d never heard of this chap. My museum preferences lean more towards death, resistance and the Holocaust rather than ecological or environmental but he was sold to me as Austria’s answer to Gaudi.
One must live as though one were at war and everything rationed
I’m glad I went. Not least because his paintings are mad (some of his pencil sketches could have been done by a child of seven and once again I wonder if art is more about appreciation than ability) – but his titles are fascinating. Forget the obvious – woman staring at sea or cow standing in field – and instead be prepared for something like The beard is the grass of the bald-headed man.
He talks of living a vegetative life:
One reason why other people do not want […] to take to a vegetative way of life is because it begins too unpretentiously, it does not have great eclat or drum roll; on the contrary it grows quite slowly and simply, and that does not appeal to our social order, people want instant results based on the slash and burn principle.
Throughout this space on a side street in Vienna, colour and disorder reign supreme. Nothing matches – colours and shapes clash, floors dip and dive. Yet there is a stillness and a magic that makes it special. Despite the heaving numbers of visitors, you can still lose yourself in the space and marvel at the man with the mind behind the madness.
Life with Mr H must have been exciting. In the Mouldiness Manifesto he first claimed the Window Right:
A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm’s reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm’s reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door.
Am I imprisoned? Enslaved? Standardised? mmmmmm
Perhaps most interesting of all his work though, are his plans to build towns that are in tune with nature. The kindergarten in Heddernheim is one example that was actually built. Imagine being able to walk on the grass of your roof. The Quixote vineyard in Napa Valley, California, is another sublime structure – one that makes me want to find some land and get to it. In 1972, he published the manifesto Your window right — your tree duty. According to H,
If man walks in nature’s midst, then he is nature’s guest and must learn to behave as a well-brought-up guest.
It is our obligation to plant trees in urban spaces. And a new word was born: vegitecture.
And just when I think I’ve read it all, I come across a link to his Holy Shit manifesto whereby he says that each time we flush the loo thinking we’re being hygienic, we’re actually violating cosmic law and committing murder. Food for thought.