I’m teaching a weeklong kids’ class, “Inspired by Hundertwasser” in two weeks, July 23 – 27, and since I’m a little obsessed with the ideas of Hundertwasser, I thought I repost an article I wrote some time ago on my previous blog “antjeart.” In case you would like to sign up your 9 -12 year-old for this class, please contact the Southampton Art School located at the beautiful Lake Huron shoreline in Ontario. Otherwise I hope you simply enjoy the article:
“To paint is to dream. When I paint, I dream. When the dream is over, I don’t remember anymore what I’ve dreamt. The painting however is there. It is the harvest of the dream.”
— Friedensreich Hundertwasser
While visiting friends and family in Germany in December, I was lucky enough to see a fantastic Hundertwasser exhibition at the “Buchheim Museum der Phantasien” in Bernried, Bavaria. I’ve been fascinated by Hundertwasser for a long time. His unconventional forms and ideas, his vivid colours, his closeness to nature and his love of beauty has always intrigued me. Years back in Vienna I admired the Hundertwasser House, a unique apartment building, colourful and strangely shaped that features uneven floors (“an uneven floor is a melody to the feet,” Hundertwasser once said), a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. Hundertwasser himself never lived there, but with this building he saw one of his many dreams and ideas realized by architects Joseph Krawina and Peter Pelican.
There are other buildings where Hundertwasser was at work, e.g. the train station in Uelzen, Germany, that is known as one of the ten most beautiful train stations in the world.
Oh, I wished I would have met him when in Vienna, or in Hamburg, where he once was invited to teach art at the same Art Academy I studied decades later, though he was uninvited shortly after from fear he might harm Hamburg’s reputation after his nude speeches.
Among artists, art historians and architects, Hundertwasser was not always popular during his lifetime. He was called a dilettante, a pleasing decorative painter, a down player, even a populist. Today we know of course that they were wrong and that Hundertwasser was in fact much ahead of his time, that if we had been brave enough and listened to him, we could have slowed down climate change and might be living in harmony with nature instead. We would have realized that his revolutionary ideas made sense, that he was as much an artist as he was an art theorist, a philosopher as well as an activist. He was unique, peaceful, even shy and he preferred his artwork speak for him in loud colours and unusual forms.
So who was this man that called himself Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser?
He was born as Friedrich (Fritz) Stowasser in Vienna, Austria, in December 1928. After his father died thirteen days after his first birthday from an appendicitis, Fritz Stowasser grew up with his jewish mother. In 1935 she had him baptized catholic – just in case. When Austria joined Nazi Germany in 1938, both were made to live with his grandmother and aunts and in order to protect his relatives the young Stowasser joined the “Hitler Jugend” in 1939. In 1943, 69 of his relatives – including grandmother and aunts – were deported and murdered.
After World War II Vienna was bomb-shattered. There were ruins and craters everywhere, but Stowasser chose to not see the world in ashes and rubble, he noticed weeds grow from the cracks in the concrete and tadpoles swim in the rain filled craters. He saw life where others saw death.
The philosopher Theodor W. Adorno said in 1949, “to write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric.” It was actually the conclusion to an essay he wrote, but this conclusion, though later revoked, pretty much explains how most post war artists felt and related to their work. They kept their focus on the incredible terror and injustices they’d witnessed, questioned civilization and provoked their viewers by showing the ugliness and the mundane. It became almost a rule for the post war artist to despise all kinds of beauty.
Not so Stowasser. He wanted to see and preserve the beauty in life and of nature. As a boy he picked flowers on his walks and pressed them between books to preserve them. But disappointed that their vibrant colours vanished in the process, he decided to paint the flowers to keep their brilliance forever. A talented painter from an early age on, Stowasser enrolled at the art academy, but quit already three months into his studies in order to travel. He wanted to see and understand life and learn everything he needed to paint through painting itself. In 1949 he called himself Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Translated from German his new first name means as much as “kingdom of peace,” his last name derived from the realization that “sto” in Russian means hundred. Hundred water.
Besides preserving beauty and nature, Hundertwasser wanted to provoke his viewers and audience to think for themselves instead of following the norm, he wanted individuals, brave enough to step out of their uniforms and comfort zones and become creative. His ideas of the 5 skins became famous and resulted him to become the artist – architect – activist that he was. Some of his ideas were implemented. Some still wait for it to happen.
There’s a story I’m fond of that tells of Hundertwasser having had a cottage in Normandy, France. Unfortunately, close to his country home ran a mayor highway. Like I would, he much disliked that highway. It was loud and disturbed him. So he painted his beautiful house and the gorgeous surroundings … and instead of leaving it out, he included that highway as a big red line. He even painted a steamer on it. After he finished the painting, he’d made his peace with that highway and even liked it as part of his cottage life. – Therapists picked up on his brilliant method and still use it with many of their patients.
There’s much more to tell about Hundertwasser, from his ideas of recycling and composting, to his painfully slow – vegetative – process of painting, his invention of new printing methods, to sewing his own clothes, to his unique symbols he used throughout his art.
After he died on February 19th 2000, on board of the ship Queen Elizabeth 2, he was buried in the “Garden of the Happy Dead,” New Zealand, the country where he decided to settle. Like in his theory of the ecological form of burial, a tree was planted on his grave. “In this way one has not died,” he once said, “but lives on in the tree: in one’s own physical self one gives nature back something of what we have taken away from her. Hence the good conscience and the happy dead.”
I encourage you to visit Hundertwasser.com to learn more about this unique man and artist. In the meantime I hope you’ll be inspired by some of his colourful “dunkelbunt”paintings underneath…
… not even two more weeks till Easter!
The heart is the universal symbol for love and affection. In time for Valentine’s Day and for the art prompt “parts and inner workings,” I created an illustration in honour of two ladies, one I never knew, one my dear friend.
In 2012 I learned that the heart is more than we generally think of. My friend Lorie was in desperate need for a new heart, but hearts are in high demand… Lorie had to live over the winter months in Toronto away from her family and young children in case a donor heart would become available. She waited… We all waited… for the person with a suitable heart to die… What a thought, right?! — Finally it happened: A young woman died. How much pain and grief and sorrow did this cause to her loved ones? And yet this young woman was generous and thoughtful enough to donate her “spare parts,” the organs she wouldn’t need any longer for another person to live on. What an act of love!
(I too am an organ donor, are you?)
Impacted like the ocean’s tide,
I’m stirred when you’re fullest.
My soul escapes its body then
Flies high toward Elysium
and dances in wondrous places
Drinks up sweet nectar
of pleasure and bliss
I’m unafraid and positive.
Illuminated lays the night
Woven with finest silver
A calmness settles the busy mind
Deprived of fear and danger
My soul turns round in safety
it summersaults in glee
You watch my play so closely
What harm could come to me?
I think your light will guide me
Through all the nights to come.
Proceed with optimism
My self-esteem is strong
But when your light keeps fading
A fright steals slowly in
I’m trembling, dreading, fearing
That not enough I am.
The night is dark and starless
No glimmer shineth through
I’m worried, long for soothing
I cannot help the gloom
I realize with fervour
The hour and the room:
It’s not a lack of power
Just the dark side of the moon.
I endure lonesome duty
My heart is faint yet true
I better test my strength now,
I persevere, see through.
The load – it is so heavy
There is no end in sight
The path is long and awry
No friendly face in mind.
Somehow I overcome
The darkness and fatigue
I work without approval
Grow tougher in those weeks
And then one night my head rests
On a pillow soft and white
You come at last around then
gently kissing me good-night.
My art team on days when the painting process is painfully slow …
There was a time when I wrote poetry, simply because it was new and fun and I didn’t overthink it. I won prices then.
There was a time I doodled and sketched, I painted and tried new media every other week, simply because it was new and fun and I didn’t overthink it. I got compliments and ended up in papers.
There was a time I made up stories, simply to cheer someone up (or to get me out of trouble – my lies were so big I actually earned praise. Thinking about it, I should have become a politician.) I wrote nonfiction and essays, simply because I needed to work through some experience or new knowledge and had to make sense of it. People loved to read what I wrote.
Eventually I started overthinking… I’ve no clue why? Perhaps because I thought in one language and spoke in another? Because I didn’t want to offend? Be liked? Fit in? Fit in what?
We can’t please everyone, I realized. It shouldn’t even be a goal. I ended up stubborn like my donkey Molly. But stubbornness takes us nowhere. It blocks. Sometimes we not even get the desired “carrot” like everyone else and we pretend it doesn’t matter though we sulk.
So this year, 2018 (in my synaesthesian mind I see this number as red, my favourite colour as a child), I intend to enjoy! I intend to enjoy the snowstorm outside, and the food I eat, the people I talk with, the paint I use, the word I invent, and the stories I come up with. If I enjoy my life – with everything being thrown at me – and enjoy whatever I will do, chances are others might as well.
No more overthinking… just thinking, just attention, just savouring.
Do you have intentions for 2018? Do you mind to share? I’d love to hear them.
I do like to travel. I don’t know if my artwork likes it as well, but it sure does travel. Through Ontario I usually take it by car, but for BC, PEI, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, I get it a ticket to travel via truck or plane. One piece of artwork I submitted to the Nonesuch Art Of Paper Awards Exhibition and upon acceptance it travelled to Parrsboro, Nova Scotia and next will be travelling to Montreal, Quebec. Lucky it! I’m a little envious of my artwork for I couldn’t accompany it. How cool would it be if my artwork could report back to me what it sees on their travels! Perhaps, if my schedule allows, I might go and pick it up, unless an art collector will do that instead.
If however you happen to be in Montreal in December, I encourage you strongly to go and take a look at a contemporary art exhibition of a special kind. Read on and you will learn all the details. And who knows, you might be seeing me at the closing reception …
On our farm we keep a small flock of Romney sheep. Romney are known for their beautiful long and fluffy fleece and their exceptional mild meat flavour. Since the Romney lambs tend to grow a little slower than most breeds, they’re not exactly popular among meat sheep breeders, but make the perfect homestead sheep instead. Originally bred in the swampy Romney marshes of England, this very hardy sheep is an easy keeper. They’re more resistant to sheep foot rot and liver flukes than most breeds and can better withstand rain and snow because of their dense fleeces. Although presently I lack the time for spinning, their long silky wool which comes in an assortment of colours, from very white, cream, light greys, blue greys, charcoals, black, and brown makes them much desirable to any spinner.
I initially came across this lovely breed when I did research for an article about wool and visited a local small-scale wool mill to watch the procedure from sheep to coloured knitting yarn. The sheep shearer was giving their flock of Romney sheep a hair cut that day and by the time I’d taken enough photos and notes in both the barn and the mill I ended up loading a male lamb into my SUV which eventually became the dad of my first cross-bred Dorset/Romney and later pure-bred Romney lambs.
Fast forward twelve years and I found myself in need of a new ram. This summer I had the great difficulty of picking just one from the handsome bunch of Romney lambs (shown in the photo underneath) from the flock owned by Bonnie Perry of Owen Sound.
The white ones were gorgeous, but reminded me too much of the old ram I had. Besides, I wanted to introduce a new colour to my white and cream coloured ewes. So we ended up with “Monty,” a five month old baby ram who rode home with our Bernese Mountain dog keeping him company in the back of our Toyota Highlander.
Our last Dorset that I kept because of sentimental reasons, Granny Sazou, was exhilarated to take the little guy under her motherly care. Previously too tired of getting up and being bothered to even eat, this little ram surely got her going again.
Friendly as his breed is famous for, Monty greets me every morning now when I enter the barn to release the flock into the field. I enjoy to watch him growing up and I can’t wait for the many colourful lambs that might be born next spring.
Whether you’re a hobby farmer, a fibre artist, gourmet chef, or spinner, or perhaps you simply like to see cuddly sheep, stay tuned for my spring update on the much anticipated new lambs.
And in case you are interested in delicious Romney meat, their silky fibre, cozy sheep’s skins or just have questions or comments in general, (perhaps you feel the need of counting sheep before you fall asleep) feel free to contact me either by email (email@example.com) or in the comment section underneath. – We love to hear from you!
For some people ‘abundance’ may mean plenty of money, for me it means having more than enough of every good thing. First and foremost: gratitude! The rest comes by itself…
Harvest time has begun in our orchard and once again I feel like a child: happy! As a little girl I sat with my stoic grandfather for hours down by the creek picking red currants by the bucket. These days I do the same with my daughter, though the location has changed and we no longer listen to the gurgle of the water flowing by, but my daughter’s favourite tunes. Great times nevertheless!
But not nearly as much fun as picking cherries with pretty much the entire family:
After the great times in the garden come of course the not so rosy times in the kitchen, but by cooking up some great recipes, come usually also some good stories to be saved for later …