“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
In Hans Neleman’s photographs a new world is created. In his stills, he points to the dilemma which fascinates him and which bestows meaning upon his work, a meaning that results from ongoing and unresolved inquiry.
In order to analyze mythological thinking and art, the philosopher Lévi-Strauss introduces the concept of bricolage (tinkering). His rule-of-thumb, as well as the rule of the game, consists of making do with whatever means one has at hand. To him, each and every object represents a set of concrete and possible relations: they are operators; they can only be used for operations within the context of a certain approach. Neleman creates structures by means of events.
Hans Neleman needs to engage in a sort of dialogue with his material in order to obtain an overview of all possible questions and answers with regard to the issues at stake. For this purpose, Lévi-Strauss uses the term permutation to refer to a set of elements within which exchanges can be carried out, as well as to the computation of the number of possible permutations. This is exactly what Hans Neleman does, being fully aware of the fact that the possible applications are limited, since each and every object has already been used or has functioned in a different structure. Each element already has meaning within the context of religion, nature, environment, home...
In Hans Neleman’s view, the elements of myth always lie somewhere between perceptions and concepts: they are signs. This perception—in other words, the image—is indissolubly linked with something concrete, whereas the concept can refer to something else, and the array of potential references is unlimited.
For Lévi-Strauss, art can be situated somewhere between scientific thinking and bricolage, for the artist has something both of the scientist and the bricoleur. Art originates within an equilibrium—albeit a precarious balance, whence there is always a certain amount of tension—between structure and événement (necessity and fortuity), which is created by both the artist and the spectator.
Hans Neleman’s photographs are interesting because they bear upon the topic of ambiguity within contemporary photography. Quite convincingly, he considers descriptive photography as a kind of creation, as a fully-fledged form of artistic expression with its own characteristic brand of subjectivity. His distinctive style is proof of this: the framing is particularly well-thought out, drawing upon the tension between concept and composition; his approach to details in their quality as signs; the emphasis he lays on black-and-white tonalities and color values.
Hans Neleman operates and approaches the task of recording moments in time with the painstaking meticulousness of an archaeologist. As such, the aspirations and functions of the society we inhabit come to life in exemplary manner. Hans Neleman registers. He shows photographs of a world replete with references to Picasso, Arp, Duchamp, Schwitters and Ernst, starting from the assessment that, “You don’t make art, you find art.” He sets up tableaux” of this reality that bear witness to the hand of the master, marked by a photographic style and a cachet of great and unique distinction.
Hans Neleman not only reveals himself, but also what is behind the image. On looking at his photographs, the idea occurred to me to look for a connection with the Italian writer Italo Calvino in order to describe the condition and role of Hans Neleman as a tight-rope walker balancing in precarious equilibrium over the pitfalls of his photographic vocabulary and distinctively individual style: “From the very moment you say about anything whatsoever, ‘Oh, how beautiful, we ought to take a photograph of it!’ you already belong to those who assume that whatever is not on a photograph must be lost, as if it had never existed. Consequently, in order to really live, one needs to photograph as much as possible, and in order to photograph as much as possible you can do one of two things: either lead an imminently photogenic life, or consider every moment in your life to be photogenic. The former approach leads to obtuse stupidity, the latter to insanity.”
As far as Hans Neleman’s works are concerned, one may conclude that curiosity, desire and recognition, each on their own level, constitute the essence and the foundations of photography.
-Johan Swinnen, “The Structured Chaos of Hans Neleman”
“Neleman’s photos eschew stereotypical iconography in favor of his own brand of symbolism.”
“Neleman’s photography attempts to capture the sounds of silence through the deeper voice of the image, both in his still life photography and his portraiture.”
“An eye opening new book.”
“Neleman’s signature still life work, colorful, whimsical and surreal 8x10 assemblages that exhibit exquisite multi-layered lighting effects, with a witty transcendent result.”
“Powerful and deeply felt. A brilliant book of dazzling surrealistic collages meticulously constructed to create imaginative visual poems. Neleman’s art invites comparison with the art of Joseph Cornell, Braque, Magritte, Picasso, and Duchamp.”
-National Book Review
“In Neleman’s work, a melancholic flavor prevails. In a sense, a neo-romantic, he juxtaposes…the vital and mortal focusing on the harmony of the opposite as a fundamental part of his imagery.”
“Neleman is a poet. His photographs tell tales of mythology and modern times.”