Blalla W. Hallmann
Originally from Silesia, Blalla W. Hallmann (born in 1941 as Wolfgang Ewald Hallmann), already developed his drawing skills as a teenager. His works, which have a balanced relationship between children's drawings, icons and academy, equally show the motifs of an ideal and yet abysmal world. Cycles about birth, torture chambers and morgues can be found as well as fantastic creatures and parodic elements of art history.
After developing his drawing skills as a teenager under the encouragement of a painter, he was admitted to a trial course at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1957 at the age of sixteen. After this probationary year, he begins an apprenticeship as a painter.
In 1960 he went to the art academy in Nuremberg, where he was given the name Blalla because of his non-academic paintings. On a trip to Paris in the early 1960s, he was reinforced in his view that art is more likely to be found among the so-called naïve than in the academic camp. At the age of twenty-two he slept with a woman for the first time. After completing his art studies, Hallmann founded a traveling theater with fellow students in the spring of 1965, which later became the "Hoffmanns Comic-Theater" (Members of this group later formed the rock band Ton Steine Scherben).
In 1967 he went to San Francisco for several years, where he met, among others, the underground artist Robert Cromb, had incisive experiences with drugs and pursued a teaching position at the University of California. In 1969 he returned to Germany. Completely out of step, he spends a few months in a psychiatric institution. In the years that followed, despite intermittent activities on the "art front", he remained trapped in his desperation between psychotropic drugs and psychiatric stays. Pills and alcohol, suicide attempts accompany his artistic work, in which there is just as little normality as in his lived life.
After moving numerous times, in the early 1980s he began to paint his disgust with humanity from his soul in so-called "horror pictures". They showed world views from concentration camp horror, inquisition, bigotry and pink, cloudy foothills of the Alps. In 1982 he moved to Brühl and in 1984 to Cologne. There, in the boom in Neue Wilde painting, his idiosyncratic, drastic painting found wide recognition. In the 90s he mainly works with a black background. Wilder than the savages and at the same time more painterly careful, he remains an artistic outsider. In 1992 he left Cologne. He tries to gain a foothold in Berlin and then moves to Windsbach near Ansbach in 1994, where he dies in 1997 at the age of 56.
(Text: Jürgen Kisters)
"No one remains indifferent"
Dr. Eva Zeltner on Blalla W. Hallmann
Interview by P.M.G.
Dr. Eva Zeltner, heiress of the Blalla estate, talks to P.M.G. about the life and work of Blalla W. Hallmann.
P.M.G.: What made you decide to build the Blalla Gute-Kunst-Museum?
Eva Zeltner: Blalla and I decided to convert a building on my private property into his museum, since he made me heir to his artistic estate.
How did you feel about Blalla?
Blalla was my life person – loosely based on Gottfried Benn, meaning the friend you only meet once in a lifetime.
What fascinates you about Blalla's art?
The dramatic in beauty, the beautiful picture that at the same time shows the concentrated charge of what life can be. He had the ability to put his finger right on the wound, be it political, theological, pedagogical, or more generally; the idyll that turns out to be a horror scenario.
How did Blalla usually start a work and how did he create it?
Blalla had the picture almost finished in his head before he started to paint. What was fascinating was that he usually started in a corner of the canvas or the drawing sheet – preferably the upper left corner – and then ended in the lower right corner, and then the picture was also completely finished. Blalla has finished painting all of his pictures, that is, completed; there are no fragments except for the two paintings begun on the day of his death.
What are these pictures?
One is called "Rotz und Wasser III", of which he only had the background ready. It was supposed to be the third and last picture of the trilogy "Snot and Water", the second fragment is a pen drawing of my dog "Sugar", the title should read: "Sugar is crying because she has such short legs" (it is about a basset hound).
Can you tell me about his first picture?
It is a small, postcard-sized oil painting depicting Sněžka in the Giant Mountains. Blalla was born nearby and the family had to flee when Blalla was four years old.
So Blalla's memory of his birthplace has shrunk to the size of a postcard, so to speak?
You can put it that way.
You refer to some of Blalla's images as "key images". What do you mean by that?
You can describe such pictures as psychograms, for example "Lunacy, The Man Tied Up, Lying in a Valley of Tears, Longing for a Woman", or the picture in which a family butchers each other and a landscape emerges from the bourgeois apartment, with Böcklin's Isle of the Dead in the background.
Could you describe the issues that have concerned Blalla the most?
First, Filicide, meaning the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child, but also parental and church education. Second, the abominations of the Third Reich. Third, the Church and the Papacy. Fourth, The abysses in family and other relationships. Fifth, The exploitation of man by man. And then the hypocrisy.
How does that go together with your statement about the "beautiful image"?
You see beautiful colours, beautiful forms, sometimes painted in the old master style, impressively beautifully painted, but behind them there is always the whole truth and the abysses.
What is triggered in different people when looking at the pictures?
The whole spectrum: from great enthusiasm to actually jumping out of the window, everything was there so far... Some just become pale and calm. Blalla leaves nobody cold. In fact, no one remains indifferent.
Who were his great role models in painting?
He valued Hieronymus Bosch, Rosseau, Böcklin, Kubin, Schröder-Sonnenstern, van Gogh and Goya very much, but he was also interested in naïve painters such as Bambois, then folk art, from ghost trains to votive tablets.
Did nature also inspire him?
Yes, very much, e.g. cloud formations, but above all the moods in nature.
To which art movement would you classify Blalla?
None. He stands for himself.
How did Blalla actually come up with his very own design language?
He read a lot and often looked at pictures of old masters, dealt with the symbolism of the Middle Ages and the time after and integrated them into his visual language.
How do you assess the importance of Blalla's work for today?
Blalla's themes are becoming more and more topical, for example the "Black Series" about the Third Reich; Blalla was not a comfortable artist that you just hang in your insurance building or in the chancellery. He is often hushed up by the official side, but nobody can actually ignore Blalla.
What's the truth behind the rumor that every exhibition has triggered "unforeseen" things?
Blalla himself said that when he exhibits, the museum director has to leave his post or close the gallery or face other reprisals. An exhibition opening by Blalla is always a sensation and causes unrest.
Blalla Museum, Windsbach