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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.