Hundertwasser

“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 in 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 never lived there, but with this building he saw one of his many dreams and ideas realized by architects Joseph Krawina and Peter Pelican.

Unknown.jpeg Unknown-1.jpeg

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.

images-7.jpeg Unknown-6.jpeg images-8.jpeg  Unknown-5.jpeg

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 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.

IMG_3939.JPG

IMG_3944.JPG

IMG_3947.JPG

There’s a story I’m fond of that tells of Hundertwasser having had a cottage in Normandy, France, but close to his country home ran a mayor highway. Like I would, he 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.

Unknown-7.jpeg

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…

IMG_3902.jpg

IMG_3901.JPG

IMG_3894.jpg

IMG_3904.jpg

IMG_3907.jpg

IMG_3895.jpg

A Wild Weekend in the Woods

Last weekend I went camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, right at the shores of Lake Huron, with my daughter and our artsy friend Andrea and a trunk full of paintings. We got a campfire going and set up our tents before dark fell, but still were surprised that darkness comes quite early mid September. However, a bright full moon watched over us and illuminated our experience … until at night I woke up from my daughter crawling over my sleeping bag to zip-up our tent window because it rained 😦

Pretty much everyone at our campsite and all around Fox Way Loop slept in that next gray damp morning in nature and we finally had to hurry to transform the campsite in an art studio by setting up props to hold our art work while also getting a fire going to brew some much needed coffee before the Studio Tour started at 10 a.m., hosted by Mother Nature, the Friends of MacGregor and artists and artisans across Southern Ontario.

img_3159

img_3037

The forecast predicted 40% chance of light rain and up to 0.2 cm precipitation; we could manage that, we thought. Instead we got what felt like a Monsoon. We were busy setting our “booth” up and putting artwork back under tarps or in the car, and setting up again as soon as the rain stopped only to cover things up again… and overall were surprised how many campers came out anyway to admire our work, or Emily’s fantastic “VW Van”!

img_3038

img_3035

We had real troopers visiting who had wanted to take our workshops, but what do you do in the rain…? Despite our beautiful studio campsite, there was no sale… but puddles that turned into mini Tsunamis, flooding our sleeping tent and threatening Andrea’s display tent…

img_3153

img_3157

Saturday night, I sadly admit, we vacated our campsite and went home for a hot shower and a lovely snooze in our own bed.

Sunday was indeed a sunny day and the world looked friendly and bright. A crowd toured Fox Way Loop and stayed for workshops, browsing artwork or admiring the VW van/tent that helped keep the conversation going. They went away with an organic apple in hand from our orchard, the one or other book, card, or painting while we listened to life music from the neighbouring campsite.

Despite Saturday’s disappointing weather, I’d like to express a big “thank-you” to the Friends of MacGregor for organizing this event and for cooking and catering delicious food at lunch time! Also for all the campers and day-trippers who came out to support us, and to all the fellow artists and supporting family members who made this unusually wild art studio tour happening! – Hope to see you again next year!

And what about you? Will you join us perhaps?

 

Wild for the Arts

Two weeks into the new school year, we are ready to go camping again 🙂 What about you?

What better opportunity than to go “Wild for the Arts,”celebrating Mac Gregor Point Provincial Park’s 40th anniversary! This festival puts artists, writers, musicians, and crafters on campsites in the Fox Way loop of the Nipissing campground. Andrea Zimmer and I will be hosting workshops on our shared campsite, Kids can have fun at the creativity site, the whole family can enjoy scavenger hunts and word games – and important: there will be food available to purchase on-site. Also: Free day use admission to the park. So if you live in the area, there’s really no excuse not to come out and check out what the crazy artists camping out in the rain (no, no, don’t believe the forecast!) and likely smelling a little smokey from their campfires at night, have to offer. The event is hosted by the tireless volunteers, the Friends of MacGregor Point Park 

When? This coming weekend:

Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept 18
Wild for the Arts Festival
MacGregor Point Provincial Park, Saugeen Shores (the only location I know of where wild birds sit on your arm and eat from your hands.)

IMG_1430 (1)  IMG_0494

IMG_1384.jpg

#218 Fox Way loop: Here’ll be our Art Camp! – We look forward to seeing you there!

Work in Progress

IMG_1592

Not far from where I live is the Bruce Peninsula with a tiny village at it’s very tip called Tobermory. From Tobermory goes a ferry to Manitoulin Island, the biggest fresh water island in the world. The water around Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula – shallow towards the east and deep with steep cliffs on the west toward the Georgian Bay – is pristine and cold and refreshes the body and the spirit for its amazing clarity and beauty. It is an artists’ and divers’ paradise for the landscape and many well preserved shipwrecks that lay off the shores and can be spotted from the land and discovered up close while diving around. On the rocks of the Bruce Peninsula  grow some of the oldest trees in the world, growing only a few inches each year and its forests are home to various wild life including the rattle snake and the brown bear.

My artwork above is inspired by the beautiful and challenging landscape found on the Bruce Peninsula. So far I’m pleased with the roughs. Now I need to add some colour to give justice to its beauty …

Explore!

Do you remember what you liked to do when you were a child? For my part, I liked colours, animals and stories – and I loved to go exploring, usually with my dog as I found humans rather confusing. I turned most stones around to see what was underneath, watched tadpoles turn to frogs, covered my arms and legs in muddy clay just to know how it might feel to be a sculpture after the clay had dried, put everything of interest into the two or four pockets of my pants only to forget it there,  … you get the idea. It is said that what we enjoyed to do as children are hints for what we are supposed to do with our lives. Now you laugh and say, ‘yah sure, that would be nice, if there only wasn’t the small business of putting bread on the table and paying the bills.’

When we were children, our grown-ups used to tell us that we could be whatever we wanted to be. I loved the idea and believed it. A few years later the same grown-ups told us not to be ridiculous when we told them what we planned to do with our lives. Do you see  why I found humans confusing?

As a teenager I once listened to a public speaker who said, “You can be whatever you want to be, you only have to be good at it.” I believed him. There is no need to do a job to make a “good living” and sell your soul for it. You might not land your dream job right after you get out of school. However, make sure you don’t forget your dream over making money.

I have never been someone who liked to do what I was told. Not because I didn’t want to cooperate or help or learn a concept, but I wanted to do it voluntary and only if it made sense to me. (My donkey is the same way and drives me nuts at times…!) – Today I still have trouble following e.g. basic recipes simply because somebody (in this case the author of the cookbook or the chef) is telling me what to do step after step. I much rather take a recipe as inspiration for my own creation. Unfortunately that frustrates my family a bit, because whenever they just enjoyed and praised a meal, they realize they will never eat this again, because next time I will have changed it slightly…

The other night I had a fascinating dream. My dreams are often quite vivid, I travel through time and space and not seldom wake up exhausted, but this dream was especially intriguing for it had instructions for artwork I was shown. The results were stunning, the instructions vague yet just the way I like it. They only mentioned one unusual ingredient that was used. The message: explore! – and have fun doing it. —

I challenge you to explore this week. Have fun doing it, whatever you choose to explore. Let’s see if also we can get good at it…

IMG_0814