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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.