Aquamarine – a Crystal Painting on Rayon and why do I paint?

March 15, 2010


40″ x 13″, rayon

In 2007 I  started a series about a theme that is one of my favourites: minerals.I am collecting all kinds of minerals, crystals, fossils since I have been a child and my fascination for these objects has never subsided. I love to explore caves, I love to dig up the soil myself in order to find some of those treasures which might be added to my collection. Whenever possible I came home from holidays, the suitcase or car full of treasures.

Half a lifetime ago we once came home from Elba with about 60 – 70 kg of quartz which I had found alongside a narrow road in the mountains after a heavy rain that had washed the earth away, excavating some amazing pieces which are still populating my studio – now full of dust because I cannot find the time to clean them off and photograph them – but this I should do!

Another opportunity was in Caorle, in Northern Italy, during another holiday, where I “demolished” half of the mole because it contained some awesome cairngorms. I came home with lots and lots of lovely quartz pieces.

Nearly all of my collected treasures do not have any value at all besides being just beautiful and thus meaning a lot to me. They are also an endless well of inspiration. And so it came that this series was started.

My intent for these was not a most realistic reproduction of crystal images – photos can do this much quicker – but I wanted to catch the very essence of something that nature creates in perfection. What is the essence of a crystal? Translucency? Not necessarily – there is an abundance of crystals in the metal section which are not translucent at all – bismuth (Bi) crystals f.e. which reflect all colours of the rainbow, or pyrites which glissen like gold.

Nevertheless – the first association we have when we think of the word “crystal” is that of something translucent, clear like water. Not without reason we say “crystal clear” water. And crystals will never fail to inherit something mysterious and seductive. A fact that is deliberatly used by all those fortune tellers and others!

I decided to start with a painting of an Aquamarine, embedded in a “natural environment”, like a landscape. Of course this is not a realistic image – aquamarines don’t grow like this but this was not my intent.

The colours are quite subdued, sparsely used (as in the real one) because I did not want to distract from the “waterlike” appearance. I wanted to keep this light and airy. The transparency and clarity of water that is inherent in aquamarine crystals has always fascinated me. They belong to my favourite crystals. There is also no reference for size – this could be a tiny group of crystals as well as a huge kind of obelix embedded in a landscape.

Because real aquamarines are mostly very light in colour, sometimes nearly bland (when they have not been manipulated through heat or other exposures in order to increase their value) their main impact is the reflection i.e. the crystals absorb the colours and forms of their environment. This was the subject of this work.

What is the reason – you might ask – for going back and talking about work that has been done 3 years ago? The reason is that I am currently not painting due to my duties in our “pigeon hospital”. I am too distracted and find it hard to concentrate on a special theme. But there is always time for reflection and this led me again to the question “why do I paint at all?”  Not that this would be important for anyone besides myself. But maybe  someone else is exploring the same  question and wonders whether this is just a thought of  excessive self-importance. But what happens when art making goes beyond the pure joy and private pleasure?  Of course many times IT IS pure pleasure but at other times it is full of pain. Especially when you are working on a theme that merely covers terrible memories or is affilitated with fear and hopelessness. So why does a committed artist take this burden in exchange for an easier life?

You see there is no simple answer to that but through this painting series and later on through many others  it became clear to me that I have found at least one answer – I paint in order to find the essence, the essence of life, the essence of a certain object, the essence of a motif. It is the very same motivation a photographer feels,  a musician, a dancer or a poet.  Isn’t that enough?



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