This is part of the talk I did at the Goetheanum, Dornach regarding my artist in residence.
Autumn 2016 Published March1st, 2017 I had the pleasure and honour of being artist in residence at the Goetheanum this past autumn. The first month I investigated the Sektions (departments) which interested me, visited the archives, the Representation of Man among other things; sketched outdoors and began studying plant colours. In the second and third month, I focused more on plant colours and did some lazure painting at my friend Anna Wadstrom’s studio. I attended two weekend courses on plant colours with Elisa Dudinsky in Germany and the “Planetenkräft” conference (The Strength of the Planets) at the Visual Arts Sektion. My attendance at these conferences enhanced my knowledge of plant colours and appreciation of the architecture of the Goetheanum. I was fascinated by the fact that Steiner seemed to channel information in order to bring healing through art, for example in his work with the colonnades in the first Goetheanum. However, Steiner would say that he was using his supersensible abilities to make visible in the sensible world what is present in the spirit world. The idea is that if we meditate on or create archetypal images that are based on the details in each individual column we can receive the strength or energy of the planet represented in that column. While prior to the conference I had been sceptical, I came out a believer as I directly experienced a strengthening of what you could call my Mars energy when making a copy of a detail of the Mars column. All of this thanks to the kind patience of our clay modelling tutor, Ulrikke Stokholm. I learned that as plants transform light they are light bearers and that the plant colours shine as they are carrying the light which was initially absorbed by the plant The plant colours also transmit the cosmic forces that the plants absorbed through their growth. As a result they become a kind of medicine. Painting with these colours as well as gazing at the finished artwork whether it be a piece of died silk, a lazured wall or a small canvas is intrinsically healing. In terms of how themes developed from my initial research and exploration, I developed a theme which was based on the beautiful autumn colours that I could see around me. Steiner had suggested that colour could be used to create perspective in his colour lectures, I painted colour transitions which created a kind of colour perspective suggesting land and sky. In terms of colour, there was the contrast of the warmth of the earth and the cold indigo sky. As I am also inspired by abstract painting, including Mark Rothko who painted primarily about colour and seemed to be interested in the surface of the picture rather than any kind of representation. In my work however, there is the reference back to the natural world and plants which is what inspires me. Two of my final mixed media pieces used a kind of resist technique with the initial drawing in a terra cotta pastel colour painted over with cold blue water colour. The terra cotta colour represents the warmth of Italy to me. It is the colour of the tiles on the roofs and vases. The soil in my area is rich in iron and so the rocks in the streams become stained with this iron oxide red, the colour of Mars. The blue represented to me the cold which seemed to descend on the land in Switzerland in early winter when the warm leaf colours had mostly faded away. I fell in love with the plant colours despite my initial technical problems and will continue my training as a lazure painter in 2017; it feels like a wonderful way to share my artwork with others. I am grateful to all my teachers and those who have provided financial support without whom I would not be where I am now, Marianne Schubert who invited me to apply for the Artist in Residence position, Rudolf Steiner and all those who have come before me who have carried Steiner’s message providing me with their insight and knowledge of art not only as an end in itself but as a therapeutic tool. There is no greater gift than to be able to do the work that I love and to be able to share it with others. Bibliography Steiner, R.(1982)Colour. London: Rudolf Steiner Press Fiona Gray (2010) “Rudolf Steiner: Occult Crank or Architectural Mastermind?” Architectural Theory Review. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13264821003629246 ( Accessed on 30 January 2017)
While here on a conference last year, it was suggested to me that I make an application to be artist in residence at the Goetheanum and here I am one year later as artist in residence for the Visual Arts Section, just settling in trying to sort out as I unpack what it is that I’m meant to be doing here.
My proposal included researching and painting with plant colours which is something specific to this actual location as it is taught in Switzerland and Germany in anthroposophical schools, plant studies in the biodynamic garden; my interest in sacred geometry which is found in nature; and a social aspect which would mean networking with the gardeners“ landverschaft ”/ Agriculture section, the “naturwissenschaftlichen ” Natural Science( or Knowledge of Nature if translated literally). Not only do I intend to create my own artwork which relates to my research but I intend to see as much as possible of Matthias Grünewald’s, Rudolf Steiner’s, Elizabeth and Gerard Wagner’s as well as Henny Geck’s artwork.
The theme in my artwork is the sacred in nature and in my photographic diary, I generally record nature’s destruction; primarily focusing on geoengineering and weather modification which destroys our atmosphere, pollutes our environment and plays havoc with our climate, among other things. Since I have been here, the scope of my photographic diary has enlarged to other subjects including bees and art exhibitions as you shall see.
I will record my experience at the Goetheanum online where I will publish my writing painting and photography primarily on my blog on my website as well as on Facebook and Flickr.
As I struggle with my very basic German and see the greatness of the accomplishments of those who have come before me as well as those who are around; I wonder at the vastness of my task and how to prioritize with my limited time and energy.
My goal is not only to create beautiful and healing images through my painting but also to bring to light the mostly unseen processes which are destroying the nature which we depend on for our very existence.
According to Steiner, it is not just the physicality of nature which is of essence; that we need to eat and drink and rely on a reliable and nutritious food chain for our well being but that each individual being in nature has a spiritual purpose. Trees, for example, do not just provide us with paper or protect the soil from erosion but provide a connection between heaven and earth.
As we have moved into a more materialistic concept, we have lost sight of the spiritual value of our environment and most things in general. I hope to enhance people’s relationship with the natural world through my own artwork, writing and through my teaching.
I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to be in this amazing place, research plant colours and have the time to work on my own art work on a daily basis. To have the time to create and write and reflect even for a short time without financial worry or other responsibilities is a gift.
As of today, two weeks have gone by and I seem to have got a picture of what goals to set for this three month period and most importantly to set up some rhythm in my life so that I have a routine and am therefore more likely to accomplish these goals and feel more grounded in an unfamiliar environment.
Unfortunately, in these two weeks there have been two deaths, one a member of the German side of my family and the other the husband of my tutor in England. On the other hand, my being here has given me the opportunity to attend my uncle’s funeral in Germany and be part of the family in this difficult time.
So far I have not really finished any artwork which would be a lot to ask under the circumstances. The problems that I face in my daily life are quite simple; should I research at the Ita Wegman Institute or the Rudolf Steiner Archives; go to the library or the bookshop; attend a lecture on projective geometry or mistletoe therapy; work in the studio or paint in the garden? Certainly, one could say that this is a luxury that most people couldn’t afford. However, without this luxury of time to research, Rudolf Steiner would not have accomplished half of his goals and Ita Wegman wouldn’t have had time to do her work which included mistletoe therapy research which is a homeopathic remedy for cancer treatment; Oskar Schmiedel wouldn’t have been able to develop plant colours or plant medicine with Rudolf Steiner and Paracelsus ( who lived in the Basel area in the 1600’s) wouldn’t have discovered that you can potentiate a plant’s healing qualities by mixing it with its own ash.
This week I learned at the Ita Wegman Clinic in Arlesheim ( a neighbouring town) that Marie Ritter further developed Paraselsus’s theories and registered a patent in the US (31.01.1905) for using the ashes of the plant in plant medicine. She described these particles as light bearers and proved that they could radiate the light and ethereal vibrations that they have absorbed. I conclude therefore that when we are consuming plants or using them as medicine that we are taking in light.
I found this fascinating as I had previously felt that both the action of painting with plant colours and of being in the presence of a picture painted with plant colours was inherently healing. We see in the use of phytotherapy, homeopathy and herbal medicine that plants are our medicine. Could it be that plant colours are medicine and express a more spiritual message (than store bought paints) by their very nature? Could it be that colour is medicine and that the therapeutic use of colour not only in painting but on the walls of the buildings in which we live and work is something we need to think about?
If we could begin to feel our interconnectedness and see the importance of seeing ourselves as part of the environment that surrounds us, rather than separate many problems would be solved. I believe that our current environmental, social and predicaments are a reflection of our spiritual crisis. I would agree with Marianne Williamson.1
Mankind has come to a major crossroads, at which the spirit alone can lead us toward human survival.
Writer’s note: Many thanks to those who helped me to get here and those who are helping me with my research.
I don’t pretend to be an expert but am just publishing my current findings.
Steiner Related Links
Ritter, M. US patent no. 781.363. ( Ita Wegman Archives, Arlesheim)
Williamson, M.(1994) Illuminata. 1st ed. Toronto: Random House
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