The smile behind his rimless glasses is hearty, he has an aura of warmth, earthy open-mindedness and an intensive urgency about him. In the Kunstforum Montafon, which he co-founded in 1996 and which he has been managing in his function as artistic director ever since, Roland Haas is waiting for visitors to the current photo exhibition on a summer afternoon. In vain. “It’s far too hot for art”, he says. “Nobody will come to visit today.”
Retaining a curious nature, getting out and about – these things are important for Roland Haas.
Despite that, he isn’t exactly doing a rain dance. The native of the Montafon loves being out and about on the mountain himself too much to wish for rain. The forests and the cliffs, and above all the glaciers – they appear to be the natural habitat for Roland Haas, his inspiration, and the place he feels most alive. Hence it is only logical that the trained ski instructor (“something I am really proud of”) now and again offers exceptional painting classes: “We go hiking or skiing, and paint on the way, sometimes even taking a small, portable easel with us.” Haas is convinced that the physical exertion enables one to not only pervade such a mountain academically but also to experience it intuitively. “The results are different, more immediate perhaps, less intellectually inclined.”
Gauertaler AlpkulTour in Montafon
He says that with a smile that leaves room for doubt. Is he serious? Yes, very serious. However, he understands if somebody doesn’t get it straight away. If, for example, they haven’t hiked as far as he has on his own on the Azores, in Norway, Svalbard, Greenland, Canada, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, Patagonia and the Tierra del Fuego. Everywhere he has been, he has translated his impressions into art, painted “glaciers in a texture like the spots on cowskin, crannied, criss-crossed by the tracks of droplets and the structure of the brush, the glacier tongue, the thaw and the destruction clearly perceptible, above all the motion, the elasticity of ice…”. That is what art critic Karlheinz Pichler once wrote about Haas’s work. Admittedly, it sounds a tad convoluted and doesn’t really seem to befit the friendly, athletic man in his mid-fifties who, in the Kunstforum Montafon, talks about his early days as an artist.
“My older brother Georg Friedrich studied music and is now one of the most renowned composers in Austria. When I told my father I wanted to study art, he wasn’t what you would call impressed.” He wanted at least one of his sons to study something respectable, so when Haas studied painting in Vienna, he also qualified as an art teacher. And trained as a state-approved ski instructor.