Hans Jürgen Wolff has worked with glass for more than fifty years. With his extensive training as a master glazier, he first produced windows, glass paintings and light objects commissioned by the church in his own workshop in Kyritz/Sechzehneichen.

From 1986 onwards, he worked for many years for the internationally renown Mayer‘sche Hofkunstanstalt and the Bayerische Hofglasmalerei Gustav van Treeck – companies with a long tradition. At the same time, Wolff began to work as a freelance artist. Conceptually he started out from the leaded windows of his professional activity: He freed the depicted scenes of their frames and removed the backgrounds. The figures thus lost their rigid context.

Hans Jürgen Wolff in seinem Atelier. (Foto: Barbara Wolff)

In these works of his own, Wolff consciously pares back his mature craft skills. They are created under extremely reduced conditions, enabling him to spontaneously take up ideas and transfer them to glass. He places a suitable pane of glass on a drawn design in original size and transfers the lines by marking them out. Sometimes Wolff uses window glass sandblasted on one side, sometimes classic antique glass, sometimes he recycles structural glass, for example from a door window or a refrigerator shelf, depending on what he has around. He pinches off all excess glass with pliers along the outlines transferred by the glass cutter and then grinds the edges so that there is no risk of injury. What remains is an irregular contour in which light is refracted, a desired effect. Wolff then uses a diamond stylus for the reduced, internal drawing of all the individual elements. He rubs black paint into the incisions, giving the glass figures a graphic character. Overlapping arms are applied with UV adhesive, the clothing and skin of the stylized figures are coloured on the back with a cloth or cotton swabs soaked in acrylic paint. Their fine faces are brought to life by a few brushstrokes. Wolff creates almost all props that are not figurative from other materials such as wood, cardboard, fabric, wire, etc. For the stable base he spontaneously chooses aerated concrete, corrugated cardboard or solid wood.

Hans Jürgen Wolff, „ . . in dem wir gut und gerne leben“, 2019, 28 x 35 x 12 cm. (Foto: Verena Wasmuth)
Hans Jürgen Wolff, „ . . in dem wir gut und
gerne leben“ (" . . in which we live well
and happily"), 2019, 28 x 35 x 12 cm.
(Photo: Verena Wasmuth)

Chance plays an important role in his equally spontaneous choice of subject-matter. Wolff encounters his themes whilst reading the newspaper, watching the evening news, observing his fellow men. What all themes have in common is an underlying criticism of society: headlines and quotes from reports on the health system, gender roles, partnership, migration, party discipline. In his work, Wolff re-enacts everyday scenes, sometimes lined up on one level, sometimes staggered in depth. His pieces resemble pictograms. They can only be understood from a single perspective - the depicted scenes are not visible when the piece is viewed from the side or from behind. What is important is their message - interpretative sovereignty lies with the viewer. Arranged as a group, the pictorial works help to review one`s own focus and thus broaden it.

Hans Jürgen Wolff, „Das Kompetenzteam“, 2008, 34 x 37 x 15 cm. (Foto: Verena Wasmuth)
Hans Jürgen Wolff, „Das Kompetenzteam“
("The competence team"), 2008, 34 x 37 x 15 cm.
(Photo: Verena Wasmuth)

Wolff occupies an outsider position within the contemporary glass art scene. For years he was represented by a gallery for fine art, he is not a member of a glas s association, and he doesn‘t belong to any studio communities. After many years in Munich and Berlin he now lives and works mainly in Wusterhausen/Dosse. His unconventionally crafted and often uncomfortable works set him apart from artists who virtuously focus on technological aspects of glass design. It is the content that dominates his methodology. Hans Jürgen Wolff is a caricaturist in glass in the best sense.


Author: Verena Wasmuth

This article is published as part of our cooperation with GLASSHOUSE The International Magazine of Studio Glass 1/2020.


Title: Hans Jürgen Wolff, „Nach der Scheidung“ ("After the divorce"), 2019, 36 x 32 x 10 cm. (Photo: Verena Wasmuth)


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