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Prints of Drawings by Hans Fear

By Robert Amos March 3, 2003

} Prints of Drawings by Hans Fear presented by his family and The B. C. Schizophrenia Society at Langham Court Theatre (394-2142) daily and throughout the run of the play You¹re a Good Man, Charlie Brown A special reception for the Hans Fear drawings with showings of a short video tape of the artist at the Theatre on Sunday, March 2 from 2 - 5 p. m. Hans Fear was an artist of uncommon talent, a legend among the street people and skaters. On city walls, Fear's spray-bomb paintings of cartoon-like characters stood out amid the tags and giant lettering. He signed them with the name Ghost - 'ghost of a dead cat', as he said. This is an artform I won't presume to critique. Fear's work reveals him as benign, even gentle soul. But he was a man driven by schizophrenia. The disease added an unsettled edge to his good intentions, and two years ago his suffering drove him to suicide. The relationship between mental illness and creative endeavour is too obvious to doubt, though I won't presume to explain it. I never met Fear. I became aware of him through the repeated marks of respect other artists pay to his memory - some of his walls remain, untouched. Memorials to him - 'RIP GHOST' - are written on fences. One admirer has the word Ghost tattooed, in gothic capitals, on the back of his neck. I received an invitation from the Schizophrenia Society and Fear¹s family to attend an exhibition of prints of 41 prints of the late artist¹s work. Intrigued, I met with Fear's mother Margaret and her son Alfons in her modest suburban home. Two hundred and fifty drawings, the legacy of her talented son¹s turbulent life, washed over the dining room table. In the past twenty-seven years I have looked through the portfolios of many talented artists, but I have never seen such assured drawing. The intensity and humour and uncanny skill of Hans Fear is inscribed on every page. The characters and mannerisms of Disney illustrators and Chuck Jones were a constant inspiration. Shading techniques from the bleak and elaborate cross-hatched illustrations of Bernie Wrightson offer atmosphere. Dick Tracy and film noir, Mad Magazine and Terry and the Pirates, and even Gustave Dore¹s engravings - these are among the sources Fear appropriated. Not only did he draw the black side, but he created a warm and friendly imaginary world, a Hobbity sort of place. In his few short years, Fear developed a sort of philosophy derived from Lord of the Rings. Heavy metal and gothic fantasy had their effect, though he was more likely to draw dewy-eye maidens from the world of Japanimation. And throughout, his art is inspired by the synthesis of graphic modes which is 'head comix'. Fear seems to have been able to draw down his ideas without hesitation. He infused his mental images with an inborn dynamic rythmn, which made these sketches tremendously effective as posters or wall graphics. The technical complexity of his black and white work - shading and cross hatching and every other artistic trick - is astounding to me. Inspiration and hard work can go a long way, but this young man seems to have been born with expertise at his fingertips. Fear drew constantly. His brother Alfons showed me a folio of envelopes decorated Hans and sent to him. They were written on every sort of paper, and not only illuminated, but decorated and inscribed and embellished with dazzling complexity. Paper bags, salvaged menu covers, taped-together compositions which grew and grew - the man was driven to draw. Hans Fear had access to levels of concentration most of us can't even imagine. In the margins and backgrounds of many of his drawings - boisterous, witty, dynamic - he inscribed patterns full of meaning and variety and almost microscopic. He could go on drawing fields of graphic energy without wavering for hours at a time. You don't often see drawing of this intensity. I expect Fear had no truck with fame and fortune, and he was not comfortable in social situations. Despite his talents, he felt low self-esteem. When I suggested that the wider world might enjoy these works, Fear's mother replied, 'If he knew you were here looking at them and talking about them this way, he¹d head out for the woods!'. But I'd like to go on record as saying Hans Fear was an exceptionally talented draftsman. I hope that somewhere, somehow, he can sense our appreciation for his work. The ghost of a dead cat, indeed. And now a moment of education from the B. C. Schizophrenia Society (384-4225): Schizophrenia is a medical illness. It is a brain disease, the result of physical and biochemical changes in the brain. It is not a 'split personality'. It is not caused by childhood trauma, bad parenting or poverty. It is not the result of any actions or personal failures of the individual. One in a hundred Canadians is afflicted with schizophrenia. __________________________________________________ Copyright © 2003 Robert Amos Robert Amos is an artist and art writer who lives in Victoria, B. C.. He can be contacted by e-mail and you can view his paintings at www.robertamos.com