Emotion Recalled In Tranquillity

As we gather our news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts we are offered many opportunities to make compare and contrast notes. For instance we have heard a number of musical groups performing in all sorts of arenas, such as in a village square, a quiet courtyard, in grand theatres and in the Indiana Jones landscape style enormity of Jameos Del Aguas. We have seen arts exhibitions held in the Cabildo / government buildings. in the casas del culture of tiny villages, in community centres, in peaceful retreats, in the workshop areas of Cic El Almacen and , of course, in the splendour that is The Lanzarote Art Gallery. And yet somehow, chameleon-like, art works adapt to their settings and that must surely reflect, too, on the presentational skills of the artists. When visiting an exhibition recently by Sigrid Braun-Umbach I was struck by how her work spoke to us from wherever it was accommodated in what was a small community room. We hard the art speak for itself, so we were delighted when Sigrid was willing to speak fopr herself, as the artist, to help you follow your art over sidetracks and detours around multi- media creations.

EMOTION: recollected in tranquillity

Photographs by Dutton The Button unless stated otherwise.

Sigrid says that although she has a large catalogue of the last fifteen years of her work it is not entirely comprised of reflections of Lanzarote as she lives here for only half the year, spending six months of every twelve in her native Germany

We took the opportunity recently to visit an arts exhibition by at Centro antroposofico in Puerto del Carmen. The exhibition ran from Saturday 9th of October and lasts until Sunday, 17th. This was a delightful collection of paintings, small ceramics, drawings, photos and printmaking from the Lanzarote based artist, with some works being available to purchase on the day.
Much of the work was cross-disciplinary and multi-media in style, reflecting I came to learn when speaking to her, the artist´s love of not only art, but of the creative process itself.

I asked Sigrid whether she identifies her route from A to Z before she begins a piece of work, or whether she simply follows sidetracks & detours along the way before arriving at Z.

´It differs´, she responded. ´Its really different. When I make a picture with acrylic colours I pretty much know where I am going beforehand, but if I am working with watercolour, let´s say, it is different. Sometimes I know what is happening, but at other times I am playing with the colours, and looking at what the colours do. It is difficult to say which approach is the most rewarding. Sometimes I create what I see at the time, but at others I see things in my head and what I see will stay in my head and I can recreate them two, three or ten years later´.

I am fascinated by the notion that a work can be created in the mind and then lay dormant for many years before being brought to life. That has happened to me with passages of text or poetry but I always worry that somehow ´the meaning´ might have been changed in the lengthy thinking period by my changed perceptions gathered in that period.

I therefore asked Sigrid if she thinks the work she holds in her mind might change before she produces it.

´It will change if I want it to´, she laughs. ´I can always work on different versions in the future. Sometimes my memories inform the art I am seeking to create and sometimes the art I create informs my memoires and that is true of all artists I guess. Every artist. I like to employ art to show people what nature is really like. I paint nature, because nature belongs to us. Therefore, I never paint people and that again might be true of a lot of artists. But whilst I am happy to be on my own I also like the company of other people and I am a member of an Art Association and enjoy taking and working with other artists. In fact I take part in street-action arts in Central Berlin. This year we held planned events at The University Of Joseph Boyce. We planted things to increase the bee population and im prove the quality of the honey. I also take part in the Documenta event that is held every five years in Germany. In 1982 they created an initiative that saw the planting of 7,000 oak trees and Joseph Boyce dedicated a stone of basalt to each tree. I have an oak tree of my own which is laid in lava. Documenta is very effective.´

I was reminded of my own life as a community artist in the UK and I told Sigrid that my local government would often fund local initiatives commissioning local artists to create an arts intervention to change perceptions or to address local issues. I was too precious about that, I think now, and worried too much about whether I should satisfy the artistic desires of those I was working with, or the tick-box requirements of those I was working for. Sigrid made light of my fears, saying that artists can only reflect what they see.

We started this article by talking about the comparisons and contrasts we often note between venues and how the art still manages to create its own space within venues big and small and humble and grand. I wondered therefore how Sigrid had selected the works she thought would impact in this environment. Some pieces are simply laid on a flat work surface, some hung on a long stretch of interior wall and others are propped up in various nooks and corners that somehow give the room itself a character it might otherwise lack.

´Presentation, and the decision-making that comes before that is all part of the artistic process´, Sigrid informed me. ´It helps that I am very familiar with this room having studied and worked and taught here three or four time a week for around twelve years We have another, bigger salon here on this complex, but I like the light in this room. It serves well, I think, as a workshop room for artists as well as an exhibition room.

´I hope I drive my art´, Sirid relies quickly, when I ask whether she drives her art of her art drives her. ´I hope so. I´ve been doing this all my life´.

But does that mean she is quite comfortable in laying her pencil or brush down knowing she will pick it up again when the time is right?

´Ýes, I can do that,… in fact sometimes it is not possible to lift the pencil. My work is quite diverse, I might be writing books, writing poetry I very much like the Japanese haiku. Sometimes haiku* can take hours and hours of contemplation to either read or write. I can also spend hours and hours collating an exhibition of my work like this one. Because I work across the disciplines employing multi-media techniques, I like my exhibitons to simply address one theme. Whether the exhibition includes water colours and acrylics and other textures I like the theme to be the sea, or the mountains or the woods.
photo Haiku, of course, is an important art form to me as a poet and I was commissioned sometime back in the early two thousands by my local art gallery in Rochdale to write a haiku to outline the history of our cotton mill town. They also commissioned a wonderful lettering artist named Stephen Raw, who created the work that hung in the gallery for nearly a decade.

Wordsworth (who is, I explained to Sigrid, Britain´s favourite poet, second only to me) once said that ´Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity.´ That seems suddenly very apt when I think again of Sigrid holding pictures in her head for years sometimes, before constructing them into art forms.

´We studied Wordsworth in school´, she smiled. ´That is an interesting quote isn´t it? Sometimes I work on a piece and suddenly realise it isn´t quite working, but I can´t change whatever needs to be changed in that moment. So I leave it, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. Then when I go back to it I can start again.

As for my ownership of my work I always feel that the moment that I place a piece in an exhibition io can give it away. In some ways it is no longer mine. However, there are some pictures in my apartment here in lanzarote and my house in berlin that I wouldn´t release, that I wouldn´t give away. Sometimes, if somebody asks me to include such a piece in an exhibition I will only do so if I can stick a red point beside it !

I came here in 1994 and when I came here I was immediately at home. And I was looking for a house or a flat here for many years, and then suddenly our house found us ! The landscape here is harsh, as you say, and sometimes I feel as if I am living here in the beginning of the world. And when I look at what has happened, is still happening in La Palma, I think it will end up a lot like Lanzarote. I like living here, though. I might not be part of a Spanish arts community but I have many Spanish friends I like this neighbourhood. I feel lucky to be here. This community holds regular music events, arts exhibitions and workshops and there are a number of good restaurants in the area as well. And there is a hotel here, which has its own little shop as well.

The purpose of the exhibition is simply to place my work on a platform where people can see it. It is good that Miguel has placed detail in his weekly Lanzarote Information newsletter and that you are here on his behalf. This is all part of an artist´s life and my working days can be very different.

Sometimes I´m working night and day and sometimes I´m thinking night and day about my work, and that is hard too ! Sometimes it is so hard I cannot get to sleep. because I am thinking about what can I do with that picture. How can I express what I mean? Which colours should I use.?

That seemed a good time to employ the final question I always ask of artists I am interviewing for the first time, about whether they work to explore or work to explain.

¨What a question! To explore, I think. Every day I am learning new things and seeing all the things I have ever seen, but with new eyes´.

Sigrid’s exhibition has been collated form a large catalogue of the last fifteen years of her work but is not entirely comprised of reflection of Lanzarote as she lives here for only half the year, spending six months of every twelve in her native Germany. There is no wonder, perhaps, that her art is so diverse, so though provoking and so engaged with our planet.

The exhibition room might not have been a space of the splendour of The Lanzarote Art Gallery, with its appropriate lighting, spacious walkways and places on the walls that permit both viewing from a distance and close enough to enable a more forensic examination, but it had its charm, and it was comfortably housing an exhibition that most impressed me with tricks Sigrid with the light and shade in her paintings and photographs, with some of woodland scenes that reminded of those Victorian ´pictures´ of fairies at the bottom of the garden,….secret and shadowy and hushed and awed in the wonder of nature.

One of the most interesting aspects of The (aforementioned) Lanzarote Art Gallery and its owner, Eduardo Fariña, however, is an on-line exhibition hall that recreates the experience of physical space.

´We try to make you see all the details of our gallery in a 3D virtual space´. they tell us. ´From the armchair of your house you can buy art, see prices and also what the artists think of their works, along with the opinions of art critics.

This new ´development was generated by Eduardo Fariña and The Lanzarote Art Gallery in order to provide an online promotion platform to artists of different nationalities, to reach buyers, art lovers and collectors.

It is not the only initiative taken to place this small but dynamic and elegant gallery on the world arts map.

For instance, Eduardo, who is not only the owner of the gallery, but is also an art collector himself, was pleased to invite patrons on Saturday, October 16th to the opening of a Forum on past and present in the creative context of the arts.

Lanzarote Memory And Identity, was born with the will to offer meeting spaces in which to consider the relationship of heritage with the plastic arts, since from their link the intrinsic relationship between the two is born. Considering cultural heritage and the plastic arts as an empowering key is essential to revalue and enhance the economy of a place.

This forum is the gateway that allows to relate the arts in the territory and with the cultural heritage of the islands and specifically of Lanzarote. This diverse source, despite its fragility, allows us to share the inherited artistic expressions with a source of inspiration for creativity and innovation that generate new contemporary cultural products. The relationship between past and present (a phrase that actually reminds me that work I had recently seen a community room in Puerto Del Carmen, presented by Sigrid), allows us today to build and revalue the inherited arts.

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