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

May 2011