Magda von Hanau

Born and raised in Barra Bonita, a bucolic countryside municipality of Sao Paulo, Brazil, von Hanau forged an early connection with nature before embarking as a teenager on a lustrous modeling and performance career. A prominent fixture on Europe’s finest fashion runways and in magazine editorial pages, she found her deep-rooted passion for beauty and art continue to blossom next on the stage – acting in the theater and excelling at improv and interpretation. Von Hanau became well known as an actress on Italian television screens before she enrolled in art school, applying her natural talent and experience living in the world’s most historic arts and culture capitals into developing her own visual language.

Uniquely, her work today takes these influences into the domain of drawing, photography, installations, and sculpture; spanning movements, mediums, and cultures. Influences on von Hanau’s practice include nature, feminism, history, the visceral and the overall transcendence of life. Anchored by the themes of time and space, she delves into more conceptual frameworks, acutely, exploring and experimenting with the motifs of beauty, identity, loss, deconstruction and of fragmented moments from juxtaposed to capture, freeze and render visible stories that transcend time and space, and break down the way we see the world around us.

Fast gaining recognition on the world stage, von Hanau’s work has been featured in several galleries, at numerous exhibitions, highlighted as public works and included in several prestigious private collections. Many of her works have been featured in top international media outlets including Architectural Digest Italia, Elle Decor, Departures, Casa Vogue Brasil, Robb Report, and elsewhere.

Miami International University of Art & Design, 2020
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Visual Arts

Notorious Women #8 – Visual Artist Magda von Hanau
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The Magic of Magda von Hanau
© Text: Dr. Renée Gadsden, 2023

This is the urgency: Live!
and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.
— Gwendolyn Brooks,
The Second Sermon on the Warpland

Love at first glance: Although Magda von Hanau has worked in various media (photography, graphic art, installations), she says that when she discovered clay as a material, she was enraptured. “I like to form the clay, to lose the control.” She speaks of clay as having the colors we have in our bodies, and that the pliability is a visceral experience that, in a way, is like our guts. “Listen to your body,” she exhorts. “Listen to your gut, listen to yourself.” The ear as an organ, a shape and a metaphor recurs often in various media: “I photograph, draw, sculpt the ears!”

Not only does the ear represent the activity of listening to oneself, for Magda von Hanau it is also a symbol of not being heard. “People are always showing themselves, but others are not interested in what you have to offer.” By including ears in odd and unexpected places in her creations, Magda von Hanau injects a Daliesque quirkiness, a strangeness that leads the viewer back to a reflection of their own bodies (and the unsettling possibility of perhaps being separated from parts of them). Not only does Salvador Dalí come to mind, the ear of Vincent van Gogh is immediately recalled — and the playful aspects of Surrealism segue into the remembrance of loneliness, pain and anguish.

These are the emotional movements that the viewer experiences when looking at Magda von Hanau’s works: there is a sensuality in the works that draws you in, but then the evidence of disruption reveals itself. The ceramic sculptures are like “ceramic tapestry”, often imprinted with subtle textile patterns, rimmed in gold, or punctured with small holes to allow cascades of feathers or yarn to flow out of them like some kind of burlesque lava. The ceramics express, in her words, “freedom. They could be falling down or covering something up.” Greek mythology plays a role in the names she gives the works and the “personalities” she imbues the objects with (such as Narcissus Blue and Narcissus Red, photographs printed on plexiglass; ceramic sculptures that interact with each other, Aphrodite and Hephaestus, all 2023, are some examples). No matter how much ambiguity is in her art, the one constant is beauty. Perhaps she is inspired by the ancient Greek ideals of beauty and harmony as much as she is fascinated by the mythology. For Magda von Hanau, the art has to be beautiful no matter what else is being expressed. Her art is very focused on the body in all of its states, and the narrative of the female body, its pleasures and its traumas, is especially present in her works.

Magda von Hanau’s artistic world is passionate and sometimes impenetrable. Examining and laying bare in abstract form the emotional manifestations of the struggle to create a unique identity in a maelstrom of people, power, tradition and domination in societies on both sides of the Atlantic are some of her central concerns. Magda von Hanau has traveled the world and lived in places of extreme contrast from deep in the vastness of Brazil to the megacity São Paolo, from the city of lights Miami to urban landscapes in Germany and Italy, finally establishing a home and studio in a historic house in the gentle hills in Carinthia, the southernmost part of Austria.

All of these inputs of culture and nature have helped Magda von Hanau to become not just an international person, but also a cosmopolitan person, and to achieve an understanding of humanity from various strata of society. This means that her artistic intention is able to touch many hearts while still providing food for thought and a sophisticated, unusual viewing experience for the public. Isn’t that what magic does: evoke surprise and wonder, create breathlessness and delight? Like a magician, Magda von Hanau conjures up for us the poetry, seduction and the ambivalence of art.