PE Robert, together with Barbara Meisner you set up a studio in the Hermes Hall of the Christianopolis Conference Centre in Birnbach in April 2021, and you went on a painting retreat at weekends for seven months. It was a joint process in which you created pictorial works that related to each other as well as to the space. The preview took place on 13 November 2021. You both worked side by side, each in your own distinctive and unique way, but in the exhibition this resulted in a common form in which your works relate to each other in colour, painterly gesture and atmosphere, and together they create a vibrational field.
I would like to ask you about the question of freedom. What do you think about freedom in relation to art and your painting?
RR I would like to preface this with a quote from the I Ching: “When desire is silent, when the will comes to rest, then the world appears as an idea and as such it is beautiful and escapes the struggle of existence. That is the world of art.”
The artist is free as an avenger, he always escapes the restrictive conditions, the standardised expectations and ingrained quality standards when he wants to find his own way and always sets out to develop original and expressive forms of creation.
It is an inner process like meditation
And in doing so, he has to be constantly on guard not to fall into self-absorbed ego traps. It is a constant inner struggle for self-expression and for a successful pictorial form. In this process I am confronted with inner compulsions, past traumatic experiences, my inner shadow parts and longings as well as with my fantasies of powerlessness and omnipotence.
I do not even try to fade out all these psychic dynamics and personality parts struggling with each other, rather my inner freedom consists in observing them as actors and thereby devoting myself completely to the painting process, where such inner parts are discharged and manifest themselves in the process of painting, without me identifying with any of these inner effect elements.
In a way, I make the inner empty space available as a stage and thereby maintain presence and energy. Basically, these are inner processes like in meditation, in which I strengthen the inner observer, with the difference that the entire contemplative painting process, including its ambivalent dynamics, ultimately condenses into a complex pictorial form.
That is why I speak of “painting retreat” and a contemplative painting process. My paintings can then be used like a mantra as an object of contemplation that builds a bridge to inner landscapes of the soul and is able to free frozen energies in order to get back into one’s own vital flow of life through “pure contemplation” and a swing between pictorial events and inner associations.
PE So you see art and spiritual as well as therapeutic processes as being connected with each other.
RR Yes, there are moments of liberating self-knowledge, moments of a liberating and healing catharsis and the simultaneous experience of delightful and entertaining dimensions of inner events, so that we are able to gain distance from the inner and outer dramas of our existence with a smile.
This is the kind of aesthetic-contemplative experience of art that I am aiming for; it is precisely in this that a spiritual dimension and acts of self-liberation reveal themselves to me.
PE Could you elaborate on this liberation?
RR Art appreciation and artistic creation open up spaces in which we can expand and overcome our limiting ideas about the world and ourselves. When we surrender ourselves completely to artistic-creative processes, or to an aesthetic reception without reservation, we can become absorbed in the process of viewing and, forgetting ourselves, grow beyond ourselves and overcome our conscious and limiting intentions and ambitions. In this inner, aesthetic event, the unsaid, the repressed, the traumatic is expressed through the artistic form through which it is banished and produces a liberating, healing effect, just as our dreams do.
For all that is unexpressed and tabooed has power over us and blocks energy. Artistic practice, aesthetic reception and transformation can bring our inner vital currents back into flow, realign them and channel them through aesthetic form. Art can bring the dark and the light into harmony and transform and reconcile them through artistic form. It can free us from fears and release us from the spell of the overpowering. This is probably also the cultic origin of artistic-aesthetic practices, which is tens of thousands of years old.
The mystery of the creative becomes apparent
I experience this kind of aesthetic transcendence as an act of liberation. For me, the creative process becomes a “heavenly ritual” and overcomes the gravitation of existential crudeness, beyond vain transfiguration and glossing over. It has nothing to do with conversion, rather art with intuitive intelligence opens up a field of experience and catapults us sensuously-sensually into spiritual spheres and fields of vibration beyond an intellectual-analytical reason, so that the mystery of the creative becomes apparent and our essence and inner strength are released.
PE So when your images captivate me, they liberate me at the same time.
RR That’s a beautiful observation. Art is able to liberate us by captivating us. And art leads to art. And how do we come to art? Very often it is precisely our inner or outer lack of freedom that leads to art, because we can overcome the intellectual, social, economic and political limitations with the help of art.
Art does not lead to freedom in thinking; art is a form of liberated thinking that is not limited by concepts. Art always finds forms of expressing the terrible and the pain in a way that reconciles the soul with itself and does not cloud the clarity of the mind. Art illuminates the abysses of our existence in a healing way.
PE I think these are good and strong ways to approach your works.
(to be continued in part 2)