Calendar 2015

A new year has just begun! Everything is open, no longer encumbered by the flotsam and jetsam of the old. It is full of hope and unfolds to offer all its possibilities and opportunities towards an eternally new beginning which we unfailingly expect. There are but a few paths cutting through the great blue plain; paths some of which might just as well be bridges reminding us that we are not compelled to start from scratch, that we can look back upon experience and lessons learned, yet also will be curious about new things to come.
“In art you can only reach profundity when you fathom your own inner depths.” This notion of Elisabeth Sula could be the motto of her paintings, and she gained this insight both during her studies – apart from studying painting with Oswald Oberhuber, she also studied philosophy in Vienna – and during her manifold and long stays in Asia. It was in India, in particular, where she found a spirituality which is largely missing in Europe; a spirituality which, despite all problems and worries of everyday life, leads to the conclusion that life without a spiritual dimension is bound to degenerate into materialistic superficiality.
Elisabeth Sula has brought this experience and insight to bear on her art.


With her calendar consisting of six series each of which comprises two paintings, Elisabeth Sula is roaming through interior development processes to mirror exterior metamorphoses in nature. A dynamic silence emanating tranquility, but at the same time rather tangibly incorporating impulses of the new beginning, the thriving of consciousness, the light of awareness, the flow of life, the mystery of transformation, the knowing field which shows that all beings are interconnected.
If we let her plunge us into each and every one of the paintings which exemplify winter, spring, summer and fall, then we are presented with what Elisabeth Sula has always wanted her artwork to bring to light: the meaning of life and the depth of the moment, emotion and spirit, order and freedom, things unconscious transcending into consciousness.  
And, true to her generic style, Elisabeth Sula generously dips the year’s cycle into the vat of her strong colors. She uses sponges, brushes and rollers to apply red, blue, magenta, and yellow, thus transforming the year into a blaze of colors. She makes do without objects; it is through composition and light that she creates reality; it is thus that she imparts the depth of awareness, the sincerity of art, but also the joie de vivre.


Angelica Bäumer
Cultural journalist and author

Elisabeth Sula – Places of Happiness

The artist Elisabeth Sula calls her current exhibition on display at Novomatic Forum Places of Happiness. The definitions of what can be or what actually makes up a place of happiness are manifold, and all of us carry in our minds distinctive recollections and associations thereof.

Places of happiness can be imaginary places, such as Clemens Brentano’s Vaduz to be found in the attic of his youth, or places that we have actually laid our eyes upon at some time or other. In our minds we often make up places, which we suppose to be places of happiness, although we do not know anything about them at all. But any such place can even be found in our immediate vicinity or can be associated with encounters and people. The striving for happiness is as old as mankind itself. But the ways in which happiness can come true may take on many different forms - from an instantaneous sense of happiness to a state of ongoing bliss.

This pursuit of happiness was also laid down in the American Declaration of Independence and defined as a fundamental human right. Happiness has always been a timely topic with the arts as well, recurring throughout its entire history – from paradise to the more recent Arcadia. Contemporary visual arts, however, have added through abstraction new modes of expressing it visually, thus overcoming the limitations of language as to displaying the otherwise ineffable twilight shades of grey in life.

Elisabeth Sula was born in Vienna in 1962 and studied painting and graphic arts at the University of Applied Art with Oswald Oberhuber, and philosophy and art history at the University of Vienna simultaneously. Therefore, she always incorporates philosophical aspects into the themes of her paintings and uses philosophy as a starting point from which to develop her intentions.

One of her guiding themes reads as follows: “One can only explore the depths in arts after having fathomed one’s own depths”. Consequently, her paintings are rooted in a striving for awareness and authenticity. After a period of monochromatic works the artist discovered the world of colour through her stays in India and gleaned knowledge on spirituality therefrom, which she tries to bring across in her oeuvres, such as “Healing Rooms”, “Knowing Fields” and “Centering”. Paintings like “Celebrate Joy” are illustrating the joy of life and, ultimately, the diversity of life itself.

Her latest paintings yet again use nature as a starting ground. Visual impressions, moods, everyday life or nature form archetypes of a repertory of designs that the artist retrieves from memory to trigger off their artistic transformation onto the canvas. Her paintings, however, display the motifs from a more than purely literary or documentary point of view. They rather translate them into a set of abstract forms and designs. Thus, the mere pictorial and purely illustrating qualities of the objects vanish, while the use of colours at the underlying layer of the painting gets ever more important and the brush and sketching flows defy any description. The painting proper is abstract, yet still leaves room for associations.

Elisabeth Sula develops a truly genuine world of her own on the canvas, which does not defy nature, but, by use of artistic means, rather tries to facilitate a closer look into the origins of any compositional creation and to raise these basic elements of nature onto another, maybe even unusual, plane. In this light, her art operates at a special interface – right at a point where both the systems of nature itself and of painting converge. Maybe it is therefore true that – as Nietzsche once put it – art helps to make mankind aware of the entirety of its existence. Certainly, art constitutes a sensitive way of getting a closer look at those twilight shades of grey in our everyday lives, which is well worth taking.

Mag. Silvie Aigner
curator

May 2011    

In her paintings Elisabeth Sula embarks on a journey into an inner world, albeit by displaying it in quite decorative patterns and with powerful colours. What is important to her, as an artist, is the individual’s search for meaning. She wants to point out that each and every human being is sent into our world with a specific mission. She puts special emphasis on the spiritual growth, the inter-relation of the inside and outside, on not being disconnected and on the respective angle, by means of which any connection is established.

Spatial depth is expanded as if many rooms were superimposed upon or beyond each other – creating or eliminating one another, constantly developing anew and creating a depth, which becomes more and more profound. When looking at her paintings we enter deeply into a cosmos of emotions, sensations, dreams and desires. Elisabeth Sula shows us these spiritual spaces in a clear, clearly distinct and poetic language so that they move us by also exuding a certain healing quality.

(Angelica Bäumer)

Elisabeth Sula and her paintings


“In art you can only reach profundity when you fathom your own inner depths.“ This notion of Elisabeth Sula could be the motto of her painting, and she gained this insight both during her studies – apart from studying painting with Oswald Oberhuber, she also studied philosophy in Vienna – and during her manifold and long stays in India. It was in India in particular where she found a spirituality largely missing in Europe which, despite all problems and worries of everyday life, leads to the conclusion that life without spiritual dimension is bound to degenerate into materialistic superficiality.

Elisabeth Sula has brought this experience and insight to bear on her art. She manages to convey a world in her paintings that seems to be simple, yet, like everything that looks simple, is also highly complex. At first sight, her paintings present a colourful light-heartedness, the clear colours, the symmetrical compositions and patterns represent a positive world that have a direct effect on the hasty beholder. Though, only at second sight you realise the depth, the punches which are used as patterns and serve as an organising principle that frame the spaces and at the same time open them up. They lead us behind the facade that suddenly becomes a window behind which a world opens up to us and leads us into unknown spaces. The painted frames border the painting as if to protect them, but they don’t constrict them as the view is directed towards depth, fathoming mysterious spaces.

Elisabeth Sula’s paintings not only lead to depths, but heights as well. Colour ribbons direct our view to unknown heights that are yet firmly fixed in an imaginary ground. They open up like vessels or close to form a hint of a circle that seems to embrace all and everything, life and death.

The same applies to the numerous floral paintings, they are not simply flowers growing in the garden, but rather symbols, signs. They are the potential of the inner mood. In return, the paintings that remind us of oriental rugs, represent Elisabeth Sula’s gardens, her substitute gardens, no real or Monet-like gardens, but rather gardens of the inner longing for quiet, order and the silence of being. In a series of paintings called “Healing Room” that she presented in an exhibition in the Wiener Privatklinik her intention becomes clear: through meditation she has experienced the healing power herself, and both her spiritual work and her Reichian body work of many years have shown her how to use these healing powers that stem from ancientsources and which you have to trustingly relinquish to. A medical center,
of course, is a place of healing – the true place of healing, however, can only be found within each of us. Wilhelm Reich’s vision of the de-armored, vividly flowing human being, who needs an adequate social environment
for his support, is highly inspiring for the artist. Creating islands that strengthen our resources within a sick, since armored society is of particular importance to her.

Elisabeth Sula’s painting is colour and composition. She paints in strong, almost pure colours, bright and powerful. Colour – again and again – red for the colour of life, green for growth, yellow for the light. And she converts her non-representational, geometrical or plant motifs into both statics and movement, into 2 and 3 dimensions. You can feel her joy in doing, as a profoundly felt insight into life and creation caused by this inner certainty that delivers strength and balance, and which is a precondition for artistic expression.

Angelica Bäumer
Cultural journalist and author
November 2007

On the occasion of the festive opening of ´Guiding Vision´and ´Healing Room´- on April 2, 2004

Andrea Überbacher

Art promoter




Elisabeth Sula’s concept: "GUIDING VISION"

Laotse, the great Chinese sage who lived around 600 B. C., wrote down his profound findings on the cosmic meaning and on human life upon request of a customs officer when - nearing the end of his life - he left his home country. This book was later on called Tao te king, a title consisting of three Chinese letters that Richard Wilhelm translated as "The book (king) of the way (tao) and the virtue (te)".

The Tao te king opens up a perception of the world that is independent of time and space and leads directly to the fundamental reason of all living and all being. Without any knowledge of the correlations of the universal laws and principles we are unable to understand ourselves and to solve the problems we created ourselves. In 81 briefly and concisely put sayings, the Tao te king presents the cosmic-human order, from which man can derive universal ideals of life. As acting in a reasonable way is based on the validity of the fundaments of thought, great motivations for effective action can be derived from Laotse’s spiritual approach to wisdom. He who heeds this, will find inner strength and fortitude.

My painting "GUIDING  VISION" refers to an excerpt of the
Tao te king:

Therefore the sage is sharp but not cutting,
Pointed but not piercing,
Straightforward but not unrestrained,
Brilliant but not blinding.

The universality of this view that has seen many a millennia is the spiritual mentor of my acrylic painting, which conveys associations of the ideas of integrity, exemplarity, diligence, support, protection, security, light and warmth in an abstract, visual picture language.



The lighter layers of acrylic colour are applied in multiple layers translucently over a dark foundation – this produces a certain depth of the painting and a complex opulence in colours. Warm shades in mainly red, orange and yellow colours are raining across the surface of the painting – high above and down below, heaven and earth, the spiritual and the profane, forming a symbolic link. Like a field of protective coat, cascades of repetitive ornaments forming a bow around a bright inner field – the being. The word “guidance” means leadership, direction, instruction, example, model, signpost, guiding rail, course guidance, orientation (a good guide is an adviser, a role model, guideline, signpost, leadership). Vision means seeing, visual faculty, ideal, apparition, sight, imaginativeness, imagination, providence, farsightedness, beauty in abundance.

The painting titled "GUIDING VISION" aims at serving as a visual colour- and lightful anchor, symbolically conveying the meaning of being connected to higher ideals and values. Apart from acquiring knowledge and skills, education also always means cultivation of the heart. The painting "GUIDING VISION” invites the beholder to look into his personal visions of life. What is it that guides and leads me in my life; which rope of guidance continuously threads through my life providing direction and thus giving me strength and power.


Review by Andrea Überbacher (March 2004):


"GUIDING  VISION  AND  HEALING  ROOM"


In 2003, Elisabeth Sula was commissioned with creating a painting for the skylight-flooded foyer of the newly built Education Centre. The owner of the building wanted a painting conveying the house’s underlying guiding principles such as integrity, exemplary conduct, diligence, support, protection, security and warmth – ideas which Elisabeth Sula brought to life in her very special personal way.

 


In addition to her studies of painting at the
Academy of Applied Arts (class of Professor Oswald Oberhuber), Elisabeth Sula also studied philosophy and has taken a profound interest in studying the traditional ways of thinking and acting that are typical of the Far East and the West.

She embarked on study trips to numerous countries, among others repeatedly and over several months to India, a country with a culture and mentality that deeply influenced her life, her art and her perception. From the very beginning of her artistic life she dedicated her work to the quest for “truth”, for the meaning and “essence” of being per se. Moreover, from the very start, the colours and symbols prevailing in the various culture groups were of vital significance to her. To me, her paintings are thoughts and constructs of ideas, and I cordially invite you as the beholders to open up and indulge in the process of perception and the journey to your innermost self and to attempt to join the artist on her search for the truly important heart of matters – for the true meaning of life.

 


For her monumental assignment here in Traiskirchen the artist referred to a book that is most important to her: the Tao te king – the book (king) of the way (tao) and the virtue (te)“, by the great Chinese philosopher and sage Laotse. The Tao te king dates back to the year 600 B.C., it was written down upon request of a man in uniform, a customs officer shortly before the philosopher’s death. The book of the way and the virtue opened up a view of the world that holds true up to this day. A view that is independent of time and space and leads directly to the fundamental reason of all living and all being. In 81 briefly and concisely put sayings, the Tao te king presents the correlations of the cosmic-human order and principles, from which man can derive universal ideals of life. With its wise sayings and instructions this book bilds a bridge between weakness and strength, between tough and tender, high above and down below, inside and outside, heaven and earth. The tao stands for the meaning, the principles of life. He who heeds this order will find inner strength.

 

In her concept, Elisabeth Sula refers to a segment of the 58th saying taken from the Tao te king which describes the sage in the following way:



Therefore the sage is sharp but not cutting,
Pointed but not piercing,
Straightforward but not unrestrained,
Brilliant but not blinding.


She titled the painting (dimensions: 6.5m x 2.65m) "GUIDING  VISION" , a vision that may serve as a signpost and guidance, as a yardstick that protects and guides, a “guided introspection”.

Cascades of repetitive ornaments flowing around a bright inner field – the being. She describes “Guiding Vision” as a colour- and lightful anchor, symbolically conveying the meaning of being committed to higher ideals and values. It connects heaven and earth, high above and down below, the spiritual and the profane.



The painting’s predominant colours are yellow and red, about which Goethe wrote in his book “Theory of Colours” around 1800:

 

Yellow - is the colour nearest the light ... it is related to gold ... it has a gay, jolly, gently stimulating quality... Yellow is considered warming ... it pleases the eye, it widens the heart, it cheers the soul, and warmth seems to directly emanate on us.
Red – this colour conveys an impression both of gravity and grandeur, of charm and grace ... and thus red was also referred to as crimson due to the great grandeur it exudes ... any surrounding of this colour is grave and grand ... it sheds a hideous light on any well lit landscape. Thus is the shade of colour that will be spread upon heaven and earth on judgment day.“



For Elisabeth Sula “Guiding Vision” is to strengthen the connection between the profane and spiritual energy. To her, red represents the profane, the soil, blood; yellow stands for the spiritual energy. In some other context, Goethe says, “Red embodies SEARCHING and LONGING, yellow is FINDING and RECOGNISING.” According to the artist, the painting also contains elements from number symbolism.


Description of the painting:

-          3 yellow, cascading vertical tracks of light

-          10 brushstrokes communicating between yellow and red

furthermore, stylised protective symbols from Buddhist iconography, running like a ribbon from top to bottom or from bottom to top, more precisely speaking:

-          14 or rather 2 x 7 heart-shaped symbols of the tripartite leaf of the Bodhi tee (the Bodhi belongs to the family of fig trees, underneath which Buddha was enlightened as legend has it, with Bhodi standing for wisdom)

-          11 sun motifs

 

 

The artist gives the following description of the symbolism of numbers: the wheel of fate (10) may be supported by strength and joie de vivre (11) in justice and harmonious balance of the energies (14) of body, mind and soul (3).

 

Due to its colours, forms and symbols, the monumental painting exudes an incredible radiance and produces a strong effect. Actually, all of her paintings have a similar effect. In the building, a total of almost 50 paintings created during the past 5 years is on display. Elisabeth Sula mainly creates cycles of paintings, developing and applying a special technique for each of them. She predominantly starts out with a dark foundation, representing a deep, dark basis of being upon which she applies one layer of colour after the other, thus achieving the intended spatial depth.

With her paintings Elisabeth Sula wants to provoke an introspection, as she puts it. She is a passionate painter. To her, painting means passion, an energetic flow, and streaming vitality. She wants to touch and make people “touchable”, she wants to create healing rooms we can enter, and where we may get to know better the true nature of our being. Her cascades of colours are like “showers” of energy, colour or light where we can go to activate our being or becoming whole.


To me, her paintings are like some sort of two-dimensional medidation rooms. Looking into these rooms is like gaining new perspectives that we can open up to – we can plunge into them like into some kind of process, into a bath filling us with soft, ambrosial, pleasantly warm sensations – inside and outside – spiritually and physically – to relax, to stock up on new strength, or like a soft cloth we can wrap ourselves in and which protects us from the cold and any adverseness. A comforting room with all sensual qualities that can be associated in this context – a subtle scent, a soft touch and warmth, energy that can be felt, the melodies of the vibes and tones of colour. The paintings convey vibrations that surely will be clearly felt by some beholders.

 

 

"HEALING ROOM" is the title of the artist’s most recent set of work, which she created here in Traiskirchen during the past few months while working on “GUIDING VISION”and which yet again show a completely new development. She uses mainly shades of green and blue which immediately let us think of nature and water. They are grouped into areas of colour, patterns or - as in the cycle on the first floor – into rotating, shining semi-circles. The paintings of this cycle partly induce associations of patterns of cloth or carpets, an effect that is mainly achieved by the uppermost layer – of the ornamental lines arranged in rectangles or squares with floral motifs. The symbols used are once more the Bodhi tree, but also roses, twines and other bordures. Like windows, these energy rooms allow us to look into other spiritual landscapes, this time maybe blossoming inner gardens or (submerged) water worlds. The richly ornamented Nomad carpets, spread out on desert soil and serving the Nomads as a green lawn and blossoming garden on their rambling. They symbolise the fertile life of nature.

 

The paintings of this cycle are beautiful in the truest and most simple sense of the word, which is not self-evident and it does not have to be this way either – for art does not have to comply with the traditional ideals of aesthetics and beauty, and it does not have to be appealing and colourful. Art deals with a wide range of topics, there is “difficult” art, critical art and shocking art. Art does not simply mean mastery, art rather means DOING, art is a creative process. And there is room for any kind of art. Yet even more pleasant, affecting our hearts, warming and healing our souls are these paintings which you can see here at the Education Centre Traiskirchen.

 

Here is how Elisabeth Sula describes and defines the term education:

Apart from acquiring knowledge and skills, education also always means cultivation of the heart.

Please click here to download the pdf-file of the published article.

 Article in the magazine ´ÖBV aktiv´, autumn 2004:

Kunst-am-Bau project: ´Guiding Vision´ by Elisabeth Sula at the Education Centre Traiskirchen, Lower Austria 2004

´Kunst und Exekutive - Kreatives Miteinander im Ausbildungszentrum Traiskirchen´

(´Art and Police Forces - Creative Cooperation at the Training Centre Traiskirchen´)

 

Art objects in office buildings, training or other public institutions are often a controversial issue: architects feel that their intentions are misunderstood, employees and visitors often feel provoked. A positive example for the integration of an object of art in a public space ("Kunstwerk am Bau") was introduced to the public at the beginning of April at the Training Centre for the Police Forces Traiskirchen in Lower Austria. The ceremonial act was held on April 2 on the occasion of the completion of the first training course for executives which was held for the town and country police and for detectives. As brigadier Rupert Fehringer, head of the training centre, put it, "The painting fits perfectly, as if it had always been part of this building", when commenting on the painting sized 6.5 by 2.5 m which was created by the internationally renowned artist Elisabeth Sula especially for the high and sky-light flooded foyer of the Training Centre for the Police Forces.

The painting with its warm red-yellow shades is titled "Guiding Vision" in which Sula refers to the guiding principles of the house which are support, protection and security. She was inspired by the great Chinese sage Laotse. His book Tao te king dating back to the 6th century BC was written down upon request of a man in uniform, a customs officer, as the art historian Andrea Überbacher explained on the occasion of the presentation.

Elisabeth Sula, graduate of the Academy of Applied Arts, had been commissioned by the association ´Gendarmerie aktiv´ with designing the foyer of the recently opened centre. Thus, despite its uncertain future due to the merging of town and country police forces, this association proved to be still going strong. ÖBV-managing director Dr Johann Hauf is also president of the association and initiator of the ´painted story´ and thus, the wheel has come full circle: Elisabeth Sula´s exhibition in the atrium of the ÖBV building in Vienna had enthused the ÖBV family as early as in 2002.

 

The dimensions of the painting in Traiskirchen also posed a challenge to Elisabeth Sula: her studio in Vienna´s Kaisermühlen quarter proved to be simply too small. However, together with the training centre a solution was swiftly found. A still vacant room (to become a cafeteria) was made available to the artist and, taking along all her painting utensils, she moved to Traiskirchen which was to become her home for a period of 3 months. At the beginning she had mixed feelings, as she admits, which, however, turned into great enthusiasm. ´I was overwhelmed by the warm-hearted atmosphere in this house, by the caring interaction of the people there and the cordial reception I experienced.´

After having spent 3 months on the premises it was hard to say good-bye both for herself and the staff of the training centre. The positive relationship that had developed between the artist and the staff of the training centre during these 3 months is clearly palpable during the ceremonial act on April 2, even including the painting itself: the pride of and the joy over the successful design of the foyer were reflected in the faces of the staff. Not only did the organizers of the ceremonial act do an excellent job in integrating artistic and aesthetical elements, but also in combining two events so different in nature like a passing-out ceremony including a flag blessing and the presentation of a piece of art in such a coherent way. After their 30-week training, the 305 future executives surely won´t forget this memorable event.

Moreover, the town of Traiskirchen contributed to the event by dedicating a new flag to the training centre. And during her work at the education/training centre Elisabeth Sula´s definition of education surely has proven true, namely, ´Apart from acquiring knowledge and skills, education also always means cultivation of the heart.´

Please click here to download the pdf-file of the published article.

Article in ´ÖBV aktiv´, summer 2002, part 2. “ÖBV aktiv” conducted the following interview with Elisabeth Sula:

On the occasion of the opening of your exhibition, Angelica Bäumer referred to the changes in the style of your work over the past few years in her introduction. How would you personally describe your artistic development?

Professor Bäumer has been knowing my work for about 10 years. When we first met, I produced a lot of relief paintings with paper-mâché on canvas and on wire grid. Paper-maché looks just like plaster, but weighs less, is not as fragile and can be moulded like clay. The predominant colour of many of my works was white then, I referred to them as my “Zen-cylcle”. I attributed great importance to expressing tension through using reduced means, in particular through light and shadow, for the objects’ main characteristic was light and shadow. I did several exhibitions in Paris then, which were highly successful.

However, it was always important to me to express myself in various different ways, thus, I also did a lot of photography and object art.

Works of art in white? – A huge difference to your paintings on display here in our house, don’t you think?

While creating my white works I also did paintings in relatively monochrome colours. Actually, it was my trips, especially to India, that inspired me to use colours increasingly.

How did your relation to India develop?

In the course of my spiritual search for meaning I felt an intense urge to gain distance to the life I led then and to start something new. Among other things, reading an Indian master, philosopher and professor of literature from the North of India had a great impact on me. I was deeply moved by his texts. To me, India is generally a country that – thanks to its tradition - virtually breathes spirituality. During my stays in India I always felt extremely enriched – by everything, the country, the art and culture as well as by the encounters with the people I met. I have come to India regularly since 1995. And I feel that the more I explore my own soul, fathom my own inner depth and open up new rooms inside of me, the more this becomes evident in my paintings.

Inner landscapes – is this an appropriate theme for your paintings?

I’d rather say spiritual landscapes, soul themes. It is those spiritual contents that I am absorbed in at the time being and that I then translate visually in my cycles. I always work on several canvasses at the same time. My studio is full of canvasses which I work on simultaneously. I move from one painting to another and apply layer upon layer.

Is this a spontaneous process, or do you conceive, plan your paintings?

The paintings develop spontaneously, it feels like being pregnant with a theme and then, the “children“ are born.

Let us talk about colours again, you use very warm colours. It seems as if even the blue is a warm colour, although it is a cold one – what significance do the various colours have to you?

When I paint, I actually use colours in a merely intuitive way. After my studies, though, I had a scholarship in Italy and closely studied the meaning of colours and symbols. Red, for instance, strengthens the joy of life, the life energy, and makes you more powerful. Of course, it may also be an intentional process to consider which paintings, which colours make me feel good. If, for example, someone is an extremely choleric person, red would not be good at all. Or, if somebody is in a rather depressive mood, warm colours are best. Orange, for instance, enhances the healing of the inner child, it is also the colour of intimacy.

Yellow strengthens the self-confidence, self-assertion, has a positive effect on the solar plexus, to connect the people with who they are, what they want and to enable them to express this in an authentic way.

Is this significance of colours universally applicable or are there any cultural differences?

It is interesting to see that colour classifications, as well as symbols, often are congruent and convey the same message in the most diverse cultures. One might be tempted to say that symbolism and actually also the use of colours is a sort of original language. The Egyptian royal tombs were painted in blue, and blue strongly refers to the spiritual world, i.e. spirit, mind, communication. When selling my paintings, it is extremely interesting and exciting to see who the painting, the colours appeal to, telling me what the individual person “needs”.

You are strongly interested in philosophical, spiritual topics – do you write as well?

I studied philosophy for some time, but what fascinates me most with painting, is the fact that I can express something in a painting that goes right to the hearts of the viewers, regardless of their nationalities or mother tongues. It represents a different level than reading and appeals directly to the viewer’s subconscious.

You can pride yourself of an impressive number of exhibitions – what is the secret of your success? Or in other words, would you consider yourself a successful artist?

That depends on one’s definition of success. I am very glad that I am able to live on the sale of my works. And it means a lot to me to hear how people take pleasure in my paintings and that people gain power and energy from them.

For how long have you been working as an independent artist?

Actually, I always have. During my studies I started to do exhibitions and never wanted to do anything other than art. Yet I never was focussed on only one method of expression in my art. I can also see myself working as a photo- or video artist. It is important to me to realise topics in an artistic way and to make transparent what my inner aspirations are. I have no problem in setting my art free and letting go.

You have lived in many different countries – does the place where you live influence your work?

Yes, among other places, I have lived in Paris, in Italy and repeatedly in India. When in India, I enjoy that I can work outdoor. I simply produce different kinds of paintings when surrounded by nature. Though I did so in Austria, together with a friend of mine who is a restorer. It definitely is a different way of painting outside.

Which role does pure nature play for you, and in your painting?

Nature is the living space where I replenish my energy resources and where I can nurture myself energetically – apart from its aesthetic and visual impression. And yet, nature has the same importance to me as the colourful saris of the women. The colour effects there are much more intense than they are here, this is true for everything, like for instance, the clothes, nature and the sky.

Here in Austria, grey is the predominant colour. The opulence of colours naturally also affects one’s mood and, of course, the fact that the sun is mostly shining and that – except when sleeping – one is always outdoors. Spending so much time indoors as we do here feels unnatural to me, even though we’re used to it and due to the climate it is hardly possible to do otherwise.

 

Did you create the paintings on display here especially for the Atrium? What was it that fascinated you most with this room?

Yes, I created the cycle “The Ocean within” specifically for this room. I was highly impressed by the special light conditions, with the light intruding from above and the pillars. With my paintings I wanted to resonate with the energy of this room, following the upward direction of these pillars.

 

Thank you for the interview and all the best for your future work.


Please click here to download the pdf-file of the published article.

Article in the magazine ´ÖBV aktiv´, summer 2002, on the occasion of the single exhibition of works by Elisabeth Sula in the atrium of the ÖBV building, Vienna 2002. Opening speech by Prof. Angelica Bäumer

After the stirring and meditative music we just heard, my opening speech almost seems to be superfluous, as this music expressed exactly what Elisabeth Sula paints. For both artists, the musician and the painter, it is not about entertainment or decoration, but about the quest for meaning, and each of them, in his/her own special way, wants to show that every human being has a highly personal mission in this world. It is about the growth of the soul, about the perception of the outside and inside, about not being disconnected, and about the perspective that establishes the connection.

For many years now, Elisabeth Sula has often been to India for several months and her life there is dedicated to collecting, not only experiences and impressions but also experiences of her soul and her knowledge. And in titling this exhibition “The Ocean within“, she means that the ocean as a symbol for infinity is in each of us. We are the small waves bordering on this ocean, and which themselves in turn move this ocean. Elisabeth Sula has been moved by India, because there something is possible which we in the Western world have almost forgotten and lost, namely the devotion to contents, to being spiritually in tune, to symbols and rites. We are, on the one hand, overfed with pictures, from Persil to MacDonalds, but, on the other, have forgotten the symbols of life and of religion and have pushed spirituality towards the fashionable esoteric niche. In India, all this is still alive, every movement in dance, every sign in visual arts has its own meaning, a tradition that has developed over the millennia, and the fact that Elisabeth Sula does not simply adopt these rites and signs in her form language, but rather tracks down their contents and transforms them in her own art, that’s what makes her so special. She does not paint in an “Indian” way. The only thing that might be Indian is her joy in colour. Maybe colour is also a symbol, for life, for still being alive, for survival in general.

Apart from colour, it is also space that plays a vital role in Elisabeth Sula’s art. And though she does not paint the jungle itself, it is still jungle-like forms which she leads us into. Even though there are no trees, no wild plants or weed running riot, it is, however, the spiritual spaces, the primeval forest of the soul, the rainbow and the room inside her – and us. We are touched by this “poetry” and clarity and we find out that art can also have a healing aspect. She has heard from people who live with her paintings that they feel like her paintings exude power, healing power.

We, in our Western, materialistic world, have unlearnt something very important: closely listening to the short holy moments, in which we become aware that we are just a tiny element in this huge world, that, however, we are one with the entirety of the universe. This “being“ is a long and process-like path that lasts the whole life, and so is painting. What hides behind wants to be brought to light. A thought, an idea, a dream, a memory, all this must come out and get into the painting, in a filtered and reduced way, but with great concentration and artistic pretension. And as this is not possible in one single painting, Elisabeth Sula sometimes works on six to eight paintings at the same time, it is like going to one’s limits. There is a great amount of the subconscious in this kind of painting, thus, the moment in which the painter realizes that the painting is finished, is a mystical one and cannot be explained in a rational way. The painting is finished when all her thoughts and all that was important to her have been expressed, spiritually, artistically and formally. Then she starts with the next painting and again it is a white canvas, about which she says that she is always a little bit afraid of before the first line has been drawn, a colour has been applied and the painting starts developing. Into colours and spaces.

 

Elisabeth Sula’s paintings reveal a creative and sensitive person, who has already done a lot in her life and has experienced metamorphoses in her art. She experimented and has made ever new efforts to bring those contents that are important to her to life. I do not believe that these paintings constitute the end of her development, she is too young and too courageous and moreover, she is too curious about herself and about life. Even though it has been India for many years, I am sure that life has a lot to offer, which she will want to see, experience and make use of. I think that this making use of has always a spiritual background. Not an esoteric one in that kitschy sense which nowadays is unfortunately running rampant, but rather in the spiritual sense which we long for and need and which has survived in India up to this day. The fact that she can feel that, that she detects it and conveys it, is a secret and guides to her paintings that bestow such a blaze of colour upon this house.

The director general has already mentioned that he is pleased about that and so are we. The paintings confer a new dimension upon the room, and maybe there will be a lot of people who will see her paintings here, who drop in just incidentally to conclude an insurance contract or for a meeting, and who then experience something that might make them a little bit quiet, and maybe curious to learn more about art, light, colour and finally about the artist Elisabeth Sula herself.

Elisabeth Sula allows colours to develop freely, out of the colours, contours unfold, separating lines the beholder gladly transgresses – on his way into the painting.


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Taken from the Catalogue ´KUNST IM ÖBV - ATRIUM ´ 2005, interview with Elisabeth Sula conducted by Eva Enichlmayr:

Her spiritual search for meaning brought the Viennese artist Elisabeth Sula to India, with “India“ standing for an “exotic experience“ as Gauguin and others before and after him might have made in the Caribbean. In brightly shining magenta, orange or an azure, her paintings conjure up the tropical luminance of this Caribbean sun and feature a lush vegetation far from Europe’s cold countries. Her constant dialogue with traditional ways of thinking and acting of the West and the Far East – apart from studying painting at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna, Elisabeth Sula also studied philosophy – is rooted in her longing for awareness and authenticity. Thus, it is only logical that her most recent cycle “Healing Room“ also leads into imaginary (spiritual) spaces, which deal with the attentive awareness towards the self and in which one may “stroll and nurture oneself” (according to the art promoter Andrea Überbacher).

 

This (India) trip to her inner self led to an expansion of her paintings and (spiritual) spaces and in some paintings to an almost inebriating explosion in her choice of colours.

 

Within the scope of the exhibition in the ÖBV building in the year 2002 you created a cycle especially for the Atrium. What was it that fascinated you most with this room?

I was highly impressed by the special light conditions, with the light intruding from above and the positioning of the upward pointing pillars. With my paintings I wanted to resonate with the energy of this room, following the upward direction of these pillars.

Browsing your earlier catalogues, the profound changes in your work over the years become highly evident. How would you describe the process of your artistic development yourself?

Up to the mid-90ies, apart from painting and photography I produced a large number of experimental paintings using various materials and objects, mainly sculptures with paper-mâché on canvas and on wire grid. Paper-maché looks just like plaster, but weighs less, is not as fragile and can be moulded like clay. The predominant colour of many of my works was white then, I referred to them as my “Zen-cylcle”. I attributed great importance to expressing tension through applying reduced means, in particular through light and shadow.

Works of art in white? – A huge difference to your paintings on display here in our house, don’t you think?

While creating my white works I also did paintings in relatively monochrome colours. Actually, it was my trips, especially to India, that inspired me to use colours increasingly.

 

How did your relation to India develop?

In the course of my spiritual search for meaning I felt an intense urge to gain distance to the life I led then and to start something new. Among other things, reading an Indian master, philosopher and professor of literature from the North of India had a great impact on me. I was deeply moved by his texts and I began to take an interest in the Indian culture. During my stays in India I always felt extremely enriched – by everything, the country, the art and culture as well as by the encounters with the people there. I have come to India regularly since 1995. And I feel that the more I explore my own soul, fathom my own inner depth and open up new rooms inside of me, the more new rooms develop in my artistic work.

Inner landscapes – is this an appropriate theme for your paintings?                                                      

I’d rather say spiritual landscapes, soul themes. It is those spiritual contents that I am absorbed in at the time being and that I then translate visually in my cycles. I always work on several canvasses at the same time and each painting consists of multi-layered, mainly transparent layers of acrylic.

What are you focussing on at the moment?

This year, I realised a “Kunst-am-Bau“ painting at the Education Centre of the Ministry of Interior in Traiskirchen, referring to a text passage from Laotse’s tao te king. To me, his wisdom, written down around 600 B.C., is of timeless validity. In my view, in addition to acquiring knowledge, education always has to include a cultivation of the heart as well. In this work I used colours and symbols in a highly deliberate way, whereas in other paintings they appear by mere intuition.

How did you use colours and symbols in the current cycle “Healing Room“?

In this cycle, I create inner spaces, in which you may stroll to nurture yourself and to regenerate and replenish your inner resources. In this context, Andrea Überbacher established a link to nomads who take along their carpets as “substitute gardens“ on their journeys through the desert. The paintings intentionally display an oriental touch, the floral element they contain is a metaphor of inner blossoming, the development of one’s own potential. By placing the ornaments in a rectangular order, a protected room for evolvement and development is being created.

You are strongly interested in philosophical, spiritual topics – do you write as well?

In addition to my art studies I also studied philosophy. But what fascinates me most with painting, is the fact that I can express something in a painting that goes right to the hearts of the viewers, regardless of their nationalities or mother tongues. It represents a different level than reading and appeals directly to the viewer’s subconscious. Nevertheless, it is of vital importance for every artist’s positioning to take a stance – also with political and ecological issues.

You can pride yourself of an impressive number of exhibitions – what is the secret of your success? Or in other words, would you consider yourself a successful artist?

That depends on one’s definition of success. In my view, I am successful whenever I can get across the essence of my inner aspirations in my works in an authentic way. I am glad that I am able to live on the sale of my works. And it means a lot to me to hear how people take pleasure in my paintings and that people gain power and energy from them. To me, leading a successful life means maturing to achieve a maximum of awareness and personal responsibility.

For how long have you been working as an independent artist?

Actually, I always have. During my studies at the Academy of Applied Arts I started to do exhibitions and never wanted to do anything other than art. However, I never was focussed on only one method of expression in my art. I can also see myself working as a photo or video artist. It is important to me to realise topics in an artistic way and to make transparent what my inner aspirations are.

You have lived in many different countries – does the place where you live influence your work?

Yes, among other places, I have lived in Paris, in Italy and repeatedly in India. Whenever I was embedded in different cultures, I was also prompted to create different paintings. Paris is a wonderfully fertile soil for artists, teeming with multi-cultural impressions and offerings. When in Italy, I feel at home, I love the beauty of the country and am enchanted by the ample treasures of ancient art. When in India, I enjoy most of all the spiritual wealth, the colourful plurality of the exotic oriental flair and ambience, its art and culture.

Which role does nature play for you?

Nature is the living space where I replenish my energy resources and where I can nurture myself energetically – apart from its aesthetic opulence. And yet, the colourful saris of the women, the markets and the temples of Asia, for instance, also provide visual sources of inspiration to me. The colour effects there are much more intense than they are here, this is true for everything, like for instance, the clothes, the architecture and nature. Our Western civilisation uses colour in a far more reduced way. It is certainly no coincidence that grey and black are the predominant colours in our consumption-oriented world devoid of any meaning.

As compared to Austria - which differences did you encounter on your stays abroad with regard to the position of the artist in society and to the society’s attitude towards art?

Unfortunately, I often experience the collective mentality in Austria being very reactionary – regarding the respect for oneself and for others. This becomes evident particularly in hierarchical structures. According to my own experience, warm-heartedness and openness are a natural expression of personal dignity among people with cultivated hearts and souls.

 


On the occasion of the single exhibition of works by Elisabeth Sula, displayed in the Atrium of the ÖBV building in the year 2002 in Vienna.

By Professor Angelica Bäumer

Today we are constantly overwhelmed by and inundated with pictures and information, and we have almost forgotten to concentrate on a message and to distinguish things quintessential from things irrelevant. Even art itself has far too often followed the call of the loud, the aggressive and striking during the past few decades. It is only by serving the sensationalist public that the artist might succeed in drawing attention to his art at all.

Yet that runs exactly contrary to Elisabeth Sula’s intentions. She enters an inner world, albeit by displaying it with powerful colours and in decorative patterns. What is important for the artist is an individual search for meaning. She wants to point out that every human being was entrusted with a specific mission. She stresses the growth of the soul, the inter-relation of the inside and outside, not being disconnected and the respective angle which establishes this connection. “The Ocean Within” – which is the title of a cycle of paintings – refers to the infinity within ourselves, which never ends, always replenishes itself, the divine part of which is integral within each and every one of us. India has become a spiritual home for her. The country’s tradition gathered over several thousand years lends her power, and the colourful life literally pours its very colours onto her paintings. Both distance and closeness are important to her, and when traveling to India it’s not as a tourist but rather as a confidant experiencing inner closeness through spatial distance, feeling ancient wisdom and incorporating it into herself and her art.

It is not only the colour which fascinates in her oeuvre, but it is rather the sense of spatiality. She may not paint rooms proper or jungles, she rather depicts experiences emanating whiffs of rooms and jungles, opening up spaces, thus allowing us to enter into this world of imagination. In this world, we find gorgeous objects of rainbowy quality, the virgin forest of our soul, the mystical jungle we have always yearned to find in the fairy tales of our childhood and dreams of our everyday lives. It is the room within us, and this is to be taken as a promise. In a clear and poetic language Elisabeth Sula shows us these spiritual spaces which move us, as they exude some sort of healing power. People who have bought and people who live with her paintings have experienced it and have told her that her work, her paintings emanate a healing power.

When coming to a country like India, every Westener accustomed to the symbols of Mc Donald’s becomes aware again of the true symbols, and whenever he is ready and willing to be affected by them, to experience and to learn, he will see that every finger movement, even the slightest gesture in a dance or in art is based on a long tradition derived from holy rites and have entered their daily routine quite naturally.

For Elisabeth Sula being one with the divine within and around us is the starting point of our existence and the meaning of our being. Every one of us is a small part of the universe – I claim that the artists learn about the secret of being, show it to us and render cognition possible. Thus, the paintings begin to emanate a sensuousness, made possible through the commitment to the artist’s own spiritual search for meaning.

As is true for most artists, a white canvas is a new beginning for Elisabeth Sula, as if there had never been any predecessor or as if there never will be any successor to this painting. Rather expressive in her painting style, she is heavily attracted by colour and light, but also by the space created through the numerous layers which draw the beholders into the painting. They are pulled onto the very level Elisabeth Sula has experienced and which she wants to communicate and has to express artistically. The depth of space increases as if many rooms were superimposed upon or beyond each other - causing or eliminating each other, constantly developing anew and creating an ever profounder depth. When looking at her paintings we enter a depth of emotions, sensations, dreams and desires. For the artist as well as for the sensitive observer all of these become real in her paintings.

While during her stays in India she paints quite small pictures, rather for the purpose of collecting. It is only at her studio in Vienna that she creates her large-sized paintings. She doesn’t paint “in an Indian style”, yet she welcomes the Indian tradition with an open heart and adopts those parts she can mingle with her own tradition. What we might call “Indian” in her art is her joyful use of colour which, in the special type of light, transform into a power which is pictorial but also ritual. Anybody who has ever seen Indian women wearing their saris or has watched films about India or has even lived in India, makes this experience and knows that colours play an important role even in the lives of the poorest of India. Maybe colour itself is a symbol, a symbol of life, of still being alive, of survival as such.

During the opening of an exhibition of Elisabeth Sula’s work a very inspiring piece of contrabass music was performed. It was a stirring piece of music, as, in its essence, it relayed what I would like to call quietness, and as this music incorporated and transported the “sound” of Elisabeth Sula’s paintings. She considers what she sees and experiences in India a piece of infinity. When she titles a cycle “Ocean within”, she wants to tell us that the ocean is a picture of the infinity within every one of us. We are the tiny waves in the eternity of the ocean, the waves that make up the ocean and that create its motion. The artist was touched and moved by India where, for many years, she has been repeatedly staying over periods of several months. Her life in India consists of collecting, not only experiences and impressions, but also of re-acquainting with her own soul, her mood and mind, her experiences and knowledge. India is a place prompting her to commit herself to things we have forgotten in our Western world. This commitment to contents, to spiritual harmony, to symbols and rites which we Westeners have lost almost completely in the course of time. Though we are overwhelmed by and filled to the brim with pictures, from advertising to politics, we have forgotten the power of rites and symbols – the symbols of life and spirituality. Elisabeth Sula experiences and identifies these rites, but does not use the signs as mere decoration, thus transforming them into painting. While taking all this very seriously, she is no missionary, she merely offers her paintings to the observers to find their own associations, to finalize the painting for themselves or to re-discover them again and again.

I think that in our Western world obsessed with consumption and efficiency, apart from many other things, we have forgotten to listen and perceive properly – to experience the modest moments which make us aware that we are only a tiny cog in the wheel that turns this great big world, rather than the great moments shaking up the earth. And we recognize that we are one with the whole, which was designed as a bigger awareness that we shall or can be. Reaching this state of being is a long way consisting of many processes. Painting, too, means going through processes. A painting does not create itself. Although Elisabeth Sula paints spontaneously, she yet works consistently and in cycles. As inspiration, imagination, intuition and emotions have to find a way out of her and into her painting. Thus, she is prompted to paint in cycles, thereby working on several paintings simultaneously. “It” flows through her onto the canvasses, until the paintings are finished. This “it” is truly a decisive moment, as her style of painting incorporates a great amount of unconscious elements. She structures the paintings by means of spatiality, adds colour and light and relates spiritual contents.

If we learn how to look closely and properly, we begin to understand that it is a soul expressing itself here, a very creative one which has done a great many things in life and gone through an incredible variety of transformations in art – when I first met Elisabeth Sula, she did relief paintings in paper-maché, and that is long ago. Ever since, she has experimented and made many new attempts to track down those contents which are important to her. I don’t think that with her latest paintings she’s reached the end of her development. She’s too young and courageous, there’s too much curiosity in her for herself and life per se. Even if it is India today and has been for many years, I am sure that India has got many more secrets for her to discover, for her to see, to experience and make use of in the future. I believe that she is always spiritually motivated in this process of making use, exploiting and benefitting. The fact that she feels, seeks out and relates this, is a spiritual and artistic secret and leads to her paintings which lend a new dimension to every room and which might put the observer in a pensive and quiet mood, make him curious to learn more about art, light, color and thus about Elisabeth Sula in the end.

Angelica Bäumer
Vienna, April  2002

On the occasion of the single exhibition of works by Elisabeth Sula at the Austrian Tobacco Museum (Österreichisches Tabakmuseum), Vienna 1995.

By Dr. Georgia Illetschko, art historian

Elisabeth Sula’s delight in experimenting is virtually palpable. Her multi-faceted creativity allows her to vary techniques, media, picture languages with a yet consistent coherence in contents. Prompted by the surrealists’ liberating lesson on the playful handling of materials, Elisabeth Sula started to produce collages in the 80ies; grass, leaves, driftwood, noodles or caster sugar met the colours on canvas and paper. Phases of expressive-gestic painting were followed by photo overpaintings, collages, experimental prints.

In 1986, the artist’s painting style starts to rise off the wall. The paintings grow bodies, into the room; they become "picture objects", without, however, leaving the wall completely to become a free-standing sculpture. While with the freely floating “sounding bodies“ of 1986, the surface of the canvas appears to unroll into the room, in the “Frame-Conditions” created at the same time, it is increasingly replaced by string and grid structures; merely the frames may remind of a painting.

In the years to come, painting returns to two-dimensionality. However, the method of relief painting with its use of plaster bandages and the incorporation of copper foils and metal wires remain integral design elements.

From 1991 onwards, pure white appears again, along with the preciously glistening metallic surfaces of the bronze and copper paintings and her expressive-gestic painting. The monochrome of the white emulsion paint only faintly indicates the relief of the incorporated paper machés. These symbols are drawings in a strictly reduced form language and – at the same time – stand for the artist’s theme densely transformed into concise signs: search for meaning - vision - portal - soul - day/night ....

In her symbolism, Elisabeth Sula follows a syntax consistently worked out over the many years she had been exploring the symbolism of archaic cultures. The artist defines her artistic activity as "shaping and mediating the original language we all have in common“, and the pivotal role of her works in the creative materialisation and mediation of spiritual contents.

Dr. Georgia Illetschko
Vienna, autumn  1995

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