Emerson Visual Arts
See more work in the students work section.
Claudia Schuermann is a regular teacher at EVArts, and she worked on her PhD at Oxford Brookes University.
We took part in a workshop connected to her research work: 'Ways through stone'. It was a very inspiring day for all...
Here is a report from Claudia...
Ways through Stone
Material as a Gateway to other forms of Knowing
Glass Tank Oxford Brookes University
20.01.2014 - 03.03.2014
The installation Ways through Stone is the arena for a social sculpture workshop process that engages with the material stone as a gateway to other forms of knowing. The aim of the workshops is to access insights into the nature of imagination and the transformative potential of art processes.
The installation consists of a ʻflowʼ of Cotswold limestone that follows the exact direction of the geological formation deep down under our feet, and which runs diagonally to the ground plan of the Gallery. A series of stepping-stones lead to an intimate space framed by walls surfaced in carded white wool, which create the shelter for a single sculpted stone. Sixteen wooden stools invite visitors to contemplate their connection with and understanding of the material forms. The table at the opposite end to the shelter holds three books, which present different aspects of the artist’s engagement with stone.
Visit of the Emerson Visual Art and Sculpture course at the “Ways through Stone” exhibition in the Glass Tank at Oxford Brookes University, 29./30.January 2014
During two days of the exhibition “Ways through stone” Emerson visual art students took part in one-day workshop processes. The exploration of the material “stone” through drawing and questioning leads on to working with one’s own capacities of sense perception and thought processes. The oral exchange that follows is a vital part in this work and helps to gain consciousness of the inner territory of “knowing”.
During the afternoon individual approaches into the field of imagination opened further questions.
Newsletter November 2013
Dear Alumni and Friends
of the Visual Arts and Sculpture training,
Our training has run for 33 years now.
This last summer there was a 25 years gathering from students and teacher who where in the course around 1988.
Below is their inspiring report with news about the very individual and different ways they worked with art in their lives.
With all best wishes,
25 Years Emerson Sculpture Course
At the end of August 2013 the first 25 Year Alumni meeting of the Emerson Sculpture Course took place in France at Michael and Sylvie’s place, Atelier Coralis.
13 of us travelled a long way to share some aspects of our lives and our work with each other. We wanted to see how those impulses we met 25 (or more) years ago through the Emerson Sculpture Course had been living with us.
One weekend was too short to evaluate in detail this question but we realized that each of us has been taking the inspirations from the art training into very different areas of life.
This text is aiming to first give an overview over the different fields we are exploring to those who were not able to come (around 30 alumni have been invited) and to those interested in the Emerson Visual Art and Sculpture course.
Towards the end there will be one more personal report with impressions of the meeting.
“My understanding of the expression of J. Beuys: 'a social organism as a work of art' seems to have grown in those days. Sculpture and art do not only mean working with the inert material. I think it mainly means transforming. Transforming the material (classical sculpture), the landscape (Land art, environmental art, environmental healing (flow forms), the look of a woman (goldsmith), the access of a person to it’s potential (art therapy) and to knowledge (teaching) - and all that in accordance and respect with the subject itself.” (Brigitte Lacau)
Brigitte Lacau, (Switzerland) continued working with copper, the material she already made a special connection with during her art training. Playing with textures and fire patina, sometimes combining it with other materials, she brings movement into the copper sheet up to light, three-dimensional forms. The social aspect in art became more and more important in her work: she developed a special approach with in process orientated modelling, dealing with life-questions, spirituality and team-building.
(Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.art-lacau.ch)
Therese Aeschlimann, (Switzerland) came to Emerson College as a trained goldsmith and when she left she founded her own workshop near Basel, first with one and later with two other partners. Since more than 20 years the three women have been successfully making their living with a tightrope walk between conventionally well-crafted jewellery and experimental, sculptural forms, new materials and techniques. When you happen to come to Basel or Dornach/Switzerland, please don’t miss out on a visit in “Die Goldschmiede”, Hofgasse 1, CH-4144 Arlesheim
(Contact: Tel. 0041 61 7016388 or e-mail: email@example.com )
Taletta Bierens, (Holland) left Emerson College sculpture training with one strong impulse “all sculpture should be in service.” From Rudolf Kaesbach she learned the very essential ingredient for therapy and teaching art: to let people free in their process. For over 26 years she has now been working with patients in Psychiatry through sculpture and storytelling. She also developed her own little cottage as a place where healing can happen. She established a story barn, inspired by the stories being told in Emerson College and at the end of October a new project came about: once a week a day of art, nature and story, for people who need to reinforce their life-forces.
(Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and see: www.devertelschuur.nl)
Almut Wooland, (UK) stepped into family life after Emerson College and soon started teaching at “South Devon Steiner School” as the art and craft teacher: Clay modelling, greenwood turning, sculpture and working with soapstone up to class 10. She regularly attends conferences for art and craft teachers in Steiner Schools Germany and is happy to take trainees from Waldorf trainings.
Philippe Marchand, (Belgium) expressed his gratitude to John Wilkes, the founder of the Emerson Sculpture Course and his strong commitment to the idea of “Metamorphosis”.
Philippe has been teaching at the Rudolf Steiner School in Gent, Belgium and for many years the Sculpture Courses at the “Sommerakademie Alanus Hochschule“ / Germany.
He also did a thorough research on trees, taking up the work of Fritz Julius for 12 years as well as research into the forming principle of the Oloid. In his own sculptural work he has been working in different materials such as stone and metal, meeting commissioned work in landscaping as well.
Dora Seaux, Philippe’s wife, is a painter and has been teaching in “Alanus School of Art”, Germany and “Tobias School of Art”, England. Both of them are running courses in Italy (see: www.santamariaferrano.it)
Beate Hjerthol, (Norway) has been working on biodynamic farms without being trained in farming and she has been nursing without being trained as a nurse. For a while she helped out with children in school. The not being professional sometimes gave a certain freedom. More and more she experienced situations, which did not have an immediate solution, and even 'the experts' did not necessarily have the answers. Sometimes this could become golden moments where new, more creative solutions were found. Those were most precious work experiences. “For this I was prepared, as I had once done the three-year Emerson sculpture course.” Some initiatives she is enthusiastic about are 'The Life Science Trust' in Scotland, 'The school without classroom' in Russia (Miralmas) and `BINGN-Biodynamic Initiative for the New Generation-Nordic.`
(Contact: email@example.com )
Michael Monziers, (France) is strongly connected with the healing water impulse of John Wilkes and the Flow Design Research. After some years of teaching at the Emerson Sculpture Course he moved back to France together with his wife Sylvie and they started working on the huge piece of family land, where our meeting took place. Landscaping, commissioned work with flow forms, gardening, talks and lectures on flow forms and questions around sustainability (compost toilets!) are areas of his work and interest. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.fontainecoralis.com)
Sylvie Monziers as a trained art therapist and painter is taking care of the colour scheme of the gardens, working in the vegetable gardens and developing the art of cooking.
Helene Aurell, (Sweden) has been working with the flow form impulse at “Virbela Atelje” in Järna, Sweden since 1997. Over the years she has been establishing her own language of form inspired by nature forms and processes and developed concrete casting and surface treatment. Today she mainly works in landscape design and garden projects where she can combine her interest in nature with the search for the sculptural motif of the place as well as helping the people by creating a garden for recovery and peace.
(Contact: email@example.com / www.friform.nu)
Claudia Plüer, (Germany) formulated that the Emerson Sculpture training had helped her to realize that perception has some objectivity to it; “it helped me to orientate; it helped me to be more conscious and secure of what I feel and what I see.”
She went back to her profession in physiotherapy and healing; she specialized in the “Feldenkrais Method”.
Stone carving is still a precious source of joy for her.
(Contact: Tel. +49 2331-3760999)
Frederik van den Berg, (Holland) expressed that the group experience during his time in Emerson has been very important. "Working with sculpture has taught me perseverance.” - a valuable guide in his work with adults with special needs in Camphill places in Ireland and Scotland where he gave art lessons and was doing blacksmiths work just after having left Emerson. When he went back to Holland, 5 years later, he was teaching copper beating and forging at the Waldorf School in Meppel and later he started working in an anthroposophical setting for adults with special needs in Olst. In the meantime he completed the 3 year anthroposophical Art Therapy training. 11 years ago he began as freelance therapist to help people with special needs to meet themselves and their fellows through art. Gradually the sculptor and the therapist in himself are coming together. He is working together with his wife Apolonia, who is a eurhythmy-therapist at the same place.
Claudia D. Schluermann, (Germany) "Working with stone, perceiving and shaping residential areas as well as listening to places and landscapes is part of my understanding of sculpture. Teaching and projects in the realm of social sculpture are similarly part of the same task – perceiving and enlivening.”
Claudia has been teaching sculpture at upper school in the “Überlingen Waldorf School”, Germany, for 10 years. Since 2001 she has worked as freelance sculptor and regular guest teacher at Emerson College Visual Arts and Sculpture Course as well as running social art projects and workshops.
Also since 2008, practice based research with the title “Material as gateway to other forms of knowing” - what the secrets in materials and processes have to offer in the field of transformative social practice” at Oxford Brookes University.
(Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.atelier-cds.de)
Axel Ewald, (Israel) trained at “Alanus School of Art”, Germany, and joined Emerson College in 1985 as a “student” during morning lectures with John Wilkes while at the same time he started teaching modelling.
Those were the years where the sculpture students were lucky to have a very balanced “three folded” team of teachers: John Wilkes, Rudolf Kaesbach and Axel Ewald supported by Peter Horsfalls wonderful woodwork lessons, Margaret Shillan`s painting lessons and Glennys Waters’ Eurythmy.
Since he left Emerson College, Axel has been working as a freelance sculptor and environmental artist; he did stage design, drawing and printmaking as well as running workshops in “Goethean studies” and environmental design. He did various projects in landscaping and Land-Art, often including the local people.
Living in Israel with his wife Ephrat they started an Art-training in the Harduf Kibbutz www.omanut.org.il and they founded a Puppet theatre company named “Aurora”.
Axel is currently embarking on a PhD research project on the "study and development of place" at Oxford Brookes University.
(Contact: www.axelewald.com )
Ephrat Angress-Ewald, (Israel) had left Emerson College and Tobias School of Art with the question, “How to transform all I met in Europe for Israel?” Her work during the last 26 years has been an amalgamation of Art therapy, performing (story telling and puppetry) and teaching (children of all ages, as well as adults).
In the last couple of years she also became engaged in supporting and teaching Waldorf Kindergarten teachers.
(Contact: email@example.com / www.omanut.org.il/aurora_engl.html)
Sculptor meeting 23-25 August
at Atelier Coralis in Saint-Laurent, France
Coming by plane from Sweden I was struck by the heat and dryness of the countryside. The air was quite humid compared to the clear, chilly air I breathe in my home country.
It took me a few hours from Paris to reach Michael and Sylvie’s farm in Saint-Laurent and so I had time to get exited. I had not seen the faces of my fellow sculptors for 25 years! How old would they be and would they even recognize me?
I also had thoughts about the purpose and consequence of such a meeting. I mean, we're all very busy in the middle of our lives, busy sculpting, earning money, raising children or whatever, but all I knew was that I had to get there.... in time!
After greeting and hugging everyone (such a joy!) I went for a short walk around the farm and found, almost immediately, ripe, red, beautiful tomatoes in a variety of size and form. You have to understand that, for a Swedish person this is amazing and very tasty. I also enjoyed a great evening meal with lamb and vegetables from the farm and on top (cream of the cake) personal life experiences told by everyone at the table.
Presentations. There is so much life in the artwork we do...life expresses itself through the creative process. That was very obvious on Saturday night and Sunday morning when we shared art works, life stories, thoughts and experiences.
Clay, wood, metal, gold, colour, plaster, stone, garbage, textile, soil, shadows, sunlight.... did I leave anything out? Mother earth provides endlessly for us to create and give to the world and each and every one of us is doing that in our own personal way.
When being so inspired by the art works of my colleaguess, there was a spark of energy growing in me and after coming back home I really see my own work a little bit from a different angle. As if my sculpture work is part of a bigger picture, included in a context, a moving stream. And I realize, however unique and personal my sculptures are, the stream leads back to Emerson College and John Wilkes.
So I want to send special thanks to John who is not with us any more. And I look forward to meet you all in future for collaboration! (Helene Aurell)
text and editing: Claudia D. Schlürmann, photos: Axel Ewald
Newsletter July 2013
Dear Alumni and Friends of the Visual Arts and Sculpture training at Emerson College,
We would like to share with you some news from the course and Alumni work.
About the film project:
“When Rudolf asked me to write something about the film project, I thought - Ah, he must think it is good (a good sign)?!? I hope you can agree... but regardless of the outcome - it is with much excitement that we would like to share it with you!
This film project would not have been possible if the current students at Emerson Visual Arts and Sculpture had not taken it on with much love and enthusiasm! The idea was to give something back - to make some 'art' using film as our medium. Together, we created it - from lots of ideas, lots of meetings, lots of footage, lots of food, lots of late nights, lots of tension, lots of laughter, lots of learning, and finally a huge job of editing. It was an amazing joint effort - doing the best we could - without a budget, with very limited time... alongside all the art studies and accreditation work!
Together we worked freely and with much determination... to put ourselves out there... to get the Visual Arts out there... to get Emerson College out there - with deep gratitude for all we have received while we learned and lived here. It was a privilege to be a part of it.
So, with much hope for the future, please pass this on - we need more students at Emerson, and surely they need Emerson life too!
Thank you for watching it. “
Link to see the film: http://vimeo.com/69086202
In 2012 two alumni had major sculpture projects in London.
Ivan Murray who studied with us from 2002 to 2005
His new work is located in a most prominent place, just a few steps besides the Tate Modern in London. It is located in a group or family of new buildings with geometrical shapes. The sculptures add a round and warm element to this clear surrounding.
Here is Ivan's text and link to the pictures of his work:
Eight years ago, I completed the Emerson Sculpture training. During those three years, I feel I gained my understanding of sculptural form and space. In creating my final project, a site-specific sculpture for the lower car park, I found what is still the basis of my artwork today. Sculptures which are formed out of a direct relationship to its environment and which bring us into connection with ourselves. In the Emerson sculpture and the Neo Bankside work, what can be clearly seen is my use of the vertical and the horizontal and the ‘touching’ spaces where one may sit.
I create these spaces so to invite the observer into a close relationship with the artwork. My sculptures are created not only to be viewed, but also to be physically experienced. This way the viewer also becomes an active participant, and therefore part of the artwork itself.
I hope you have the chance to visit ‘A Family in Residence’ at Neo Bankside and become part of the family. More information can be found on my website http://www.ivanmurray.co.uk
Richard Heys studied with us from 2001 to 2003
He is now a freelance artist and also one of our painting and drawing teachers. His work started as a community research work and ended with a lively upright group of 3 very big oak sculptures. Here is Richard’s text and pictures of this work:
“The Space Between”, a public art piece by Richard Heys
In July 2011 my wife and I were recommended to Barratt Homes to undertake a public art process. Barratt Homes asked that the art work be created as a tribute to the Woking band, The Jam and that the work should grow out of school workshops. In autumn 2011 I visited four schools and worked with 130 students, leading clay modelling and drawing workshops inspired by selected lyrics from The Jam and images of contemporary abstract sculpture. My wife Belinda and I were engaged with this process, I as artist and Belinda as researcher. The ideas and recurring themes gathered from these workshops were worked into the development of the sculpture. I prepared twelve maquettes and sketches, and Barratt Homes shortlisted three of these. After a period of consultation I chose to create “The Space Between” in green oak.
I rented an open barn in Ashurst Wood and welcomed staff and students from the Visual Arts and Sculpture course on many occasions as they visited to offer me encouragement and to observe the development of the piece.
The sculpture stands in a very urban setting in the plaza area of the New Central development which consists of five blocks of flats, offices and retail units, including a restaurant and a supermarket. It is five minutes’ walk from Woking station and eventually the sculpture will be a feature on a circular walk through the town. The combined weight of the sculpture is 7.7 tonnes and stands at 5,5 metres. The outer surfaces are worked and finished with chain saws and the inner concave surfaces are hand carved. Barratt Homes and Woking Borough Council have expressed their delight with the finished sculpture and with the project as a whole.
News from the course:
Students from Latin speaking languages are now joining the training in larger numbers: from Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, etc. The influx of students from the Far East countries of Japan, Taiwan and Korea continues in a steady way with the second student from China in the course this year.
The sculpture program is built on a strong foundation of the basic elements of art in form, colour and line and their deepening through Anthroposophy.
A more intensive work with the quality of "materials" in Art and the possibilities of Installation work has developed over the last years. The work with colour is intensive and integral part of the training now.
Some of the teaching blocks in painting and sculpture are open for guests and can be refresher courses for alumni.
Over the years a continuity and stability has developed in the course, thanks to the work of our team of teachers. They are the ones who bring new directions and new ways of working with art into the course.
The combined effort of all the teachers creates the space where the students can unfold their unique creativity.
In 2012/13 the following teachers have contributed to the course:
Nick Weidmann: Wood and Stone carving and Water flow experiments.
Richard Heys: Introduction to Colour work and Drawing. History of Art
Fritz Marburg: Sculpture.
Rudolf Kaesbach: Sculpture and History of Art. Administration.
Andrea Donadoni: Sculpture.
Isabel Schaefer: Sculpture
Claudia Schluermann: Materials and Installation work.
Martin Gutjahr: Painting and Drawing.
Thea Kaesbach: Eurythmy.
Brian Masters, Ann Druitt and Hermann Koepke: Study groups.
Rachel Cachafeiro: Nature studies.
Yvette Dellsperger: Course administration.
In the last 3 years I have been asked to give courses three times in Japan and last summer also in China.
These are mostly courses connected to pedagogical sculpture in Waldorf schools or teacher trainings.
The sculpture work in the Far East has opened up the vast and deep inwardness of the participants of this part of the world. These "Inner Cathedrals" become visible in their sculptures, whenever they have the opportunity to work creatively with art.
This summer I will be working in Taiwan and in September in Brazil.
These travels bring many opportunities to meet former students in their work.
A mix of smaller and larger donations are year by year supporting students with their fees and final project costs. Many, many thanks for the donations which are a great support for our work.
The link to the film mentioned above is a new, very touching way to open up the work and energy in the course, for those interested. Please help to spread the film around. Link to see the film: http://vimeo.com/69086202
or on YouTube under http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c71PD64EMYQ
Many thanks for your inner and outer support of the training.
With best wishes for your work with art,
Newsletter No.3 March 2011
Dear alumni and friends of Emerson Visual Arts and Sculpture Training
The main topic of this newsletter is to share with you thework, which four alumni are doing professionally in the world.
Each one wrote an article, describing their very individual and different journeys, which they took after completing the sculpture training.
We are very thankful for these contributions, as these reports can inspire and radiate trust into new and surprising artistic developments of other alumni and students.
Fundraising and News
We would like to thank all those who gave donations toward the student support fund. In the current difficult financial times, many students need support for their tuition costs.
If you can make a donation, please send it to:
Donations to: Emerson Visual Arts
IBAN: GB40 MIDL 402009 31577751
Swift Code: MIDL GB 22
For: Student Support Fund
We have created a new A5 leaflet about the Evarts courses.
Please do send us an e-mail or a note if we can send you some leaflets for you to display in your area. Your help and support in publicity about the course is very much appreciated.
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Alumni Work and websites
In this section four former students speak about the development of their artistic work since leaving the college.
a) Walter Peter (student 1989 - 1992)
b) Laura Wilson (student 2004 - 2007)
c) Robert Stammler (student 1997 - 2000)
d) David Stockdale (student 2003 - 2006)
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Playground Equipment as applied Sculpture.
The time I spent from 1989 through to 1992 at Emerson College whilst training to be a sculptor under the auspices of Rudolf Kaesbach, Michael Monzies, Axel Ewald and John Wilkes was quite an exceptional period in my life. At long last I felt as if I had found a way to unlock that potential slumbering within me. Rudolf urged me to forget my inhibitions and to simply try everything out that came into my head. Thanks to this sound piece of advice, it was as if I was armed with unlimited freedom, so I plunged myself into the task ahead. Although my sights were set on a career as a free-lance, I was sufficiently earth-bound, once I had reached the end of my course, to realise that I wouldn’t be able to get there immediately. I therefore followed up those golden years at Emerson with a post-grad. Teacher-training course at Alanus Art College in Alfter, near Bonn, Germany.
During my training I spent some of my work-experience at a prison-workshop in Bremen. Fortunately they offered to take me on once I had completed my course and so I spent the following 7 years there in charge of my own sculpture studio-workshop, tutoring many adult inmates during that time as well as organising various exhibitions and symposiums. As a rule 10 inmates would be in the studio at the same time, hammering away at their respective blocks of stone. Once started on an artistic project they would without fail have to come to terms with the fundamental fact, that our all our actions inevitably lead to consequences: that with each stroke of the hammer a mark will be left on the stone, which itself will have an effect on the project as a whole.
After this time I was then offered the opportunity to set up a similar workshop for teenage inmates. This project however stretched me to the limit and after a year’s struggle I had just about managed to get it on its feet. In the meantime I had come to realise that prevention is better than cure and that I would far rather invest my time and idealism in helping to develop the young, so that they are better able to cope with the difficulties which lie ahead of them, than spending the rest of my career struggling to patch up those who were already damaged.
It was in 1996 that I built my first play-ground climbing frame for the Waldorf-Kindergarten in Ottersberg. It didn’t take long until further enquiries started to come in and it soon became apparent that I couldn’t continue with my work in Bremen and develop climbing-frames on the side. Once I had decided the time was right to go free-lance, I was free to devote myself wholeheartedly to developing playground climbing structures of a holistic or organic nature, and I soon came to appreciate that the fundamental question behind all my striving was simply how to maximise true play-potential.
Although it was the case in times gone by, in today’s modern western society it is not generally appreciated, what a vital role the world of make-believe actually plays in healthy child-development. It seems to me that the sole parameters along which the vast majority of today’s play-ground equipment is developed, are functionality and cost effectiveness.
However I feel very much that more than this is required in order to create a playing environment, which not only withholds the greatest play potential, but also aids the child in its own process of self discovery. In my opinion, playground equipment which is over defined i.e. looks too much like a ship, a castle, a house etc., actually has considerably less play potential, than equipment which is without any of those basic elements of modern structure: flat surfaces and right angles. If that is so, then the child’s imagination is not put into a straight-jacket, but rather is allowed to develop freely as should be the case. For a child at play, an undefined forked branch can become a multitude of things, just as each individual child so pleases. By giving children climbing frames which help to stretch rather than restrict their imagination, this so vital, but by all accounts diminishing fundamental human ability, can develop and grow to become the valuable asset for adult life it ought to be.
Kinderspielkunst has now been a two-man firm since 2001. As my colleague has a technical background we complement each other admirably. Our firm has been a viable financial proposition for over six years now. Although there is no shortage of work, we have as yet decided against further expansion, as expansion would mean having to let go of part of the production process which we are not prepared to do: we find all parts of the process interesting! At the moment, it being winter, we are out in the woods collecting our material – all of it oak. To be honest we would be prepared to let others prepare the wood for us, as peeling off the bark and sanding down the trunks require heavy manual labour and we’re not getting any younger! On the other hand the highlights are definitely the colouring and the final installation, as it is then that our artistic skills can come into their own.
Over the last decade we have installed well over 150 climbing frames from Switzerland up to the Danish border. In the early years our assignments came mainly from Waldorf institutions, though since we have become better known, this sector now only accounts for about a third of our work.
Between 2006 and 2009 I did a part-time training in Bothmer-Gymnastics. I have found that learning to increase my awareness of the three dimensions within my own body has been a great asset to my work and I can wholeheartedly recommend this training to others working in the field of sculpture.
Walter Peter, Bildhauer, Ottersberg, N. Germany
For more information and pictures
about Walter Peter's work see:
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From July 2007 - 2009, I designed and created urban water sculptures for projects in Europe, Asia and America with the landscape architecture firm, Atelier Dreiseitl - www.dreiseitl.com in Ueberlingen, Germany.
I had my first solo art exhibition 'Inner Landscapes' in Mannheim, Germany (from 24 April - 4 June 2010). I had 4 months to prepare and create 28 new pieces (a large accomplishment in and of itself). The artist statement is included below.
I am currently preparing another show for the end of summer 2011 and looking into other opportunities to exhibit as well as to work in collaboration with other artists. My intention is to develop and create public art works in collaboration with community and/or other artists.
Click here to read an article written about Laura's 3rd year final work at Emerson College, 'Two Spirals'
Inner Landscapes - Within Us and Around Us
We are in a constant dialogue with our environment and with nature. This includes the interaction with the structures we create, our relationship with the land and connections to the people around us. It is a misconception that the world is separate from us as individuals. More apt is this that we are individuals projecting our own understandings into the world.
Two mediums are juxtaposed. Paintings created on canvas and wood show abstract landscapes. This is contrasted by figural sculptures, formed from metal, wire, light and photographs.
The emphasis of the torso motif is used to symbolize the human form as an object of fascination, beauty, and entrapment. It is made transparent to illuminate the inner potential of the human heart and illustrate the mystery, wildness and beauty of what lives inside. Allowing the viewer to see into an inner reality usually hidden within the outer shell of the human body, the viewer is asked to reflect upon their own inner landscape – what treasure is held within? Do you freely recognize your own inner landscape? Is it trapped inside, held there by fear? Are you able to respect and nurture that symbol or unspoken landscape in another? Do you merely limit yourself to see only the physical barrier of the body?
There is a freedom in the landscapes of the mind that allows for a fluidity of form and colour. The series of triptychs provide a window into the artist's own imagery. The process of putting paint on canvas can reveal interesting colours and imagery that are often times surprising in their discovery. By being open to exploring our inner landscapes we can tap into our unique expression. The inner landscape we carry within us is the essence of what we create in the world around us. Each of us can begin to more consciously play an active and creative role in this process by creating a space for our inner voice to be expressed.
This multidimensionality – inside and outside, a history - past, present and future, how it affects us and how present we can be to shape what will happen in the future is what is being shown in this installation.
These works can be seen at www.lauraawilson.com
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MY ART OF TEACHING – at Potsdam Waldorf School (Germany)
Why should I bother trying to teach children the mystery of art? If they are not interested they shall do their maths and I do art on my own – the results will be much more pleasing anyway!
But they are interested. Even more: they are very interested in working artistically in all kinds of artistic areas!
What costs my energy as a teacher is not the work with the pupils but the ongoing lobbying in the teaching staff in order to stop the next attempt of rationalizing in the field of “not so necessary” subjects – like art. The pressure from outside is raising constantly to be top in results and to comply with the standards governments hatch. Art doesn’t aim at training a child only supports it in becoming a true human being. In that perspective art is luxury.
This wide spread materialistic approach to education reflects a part of reality that we as waldorf schools especially have to struggle with more and more. Children had less and less contact with nature, experiences with real matter in general and encounters and inspirations that go beyond the pure practical, intellect based rational when they come to school. This means that the realm of art in its widest sense is not particularly familiar to them. Even worse: features that belong to the category of quantity are nowadays often used as qualities (brands, how much things cost, how powerful devices are, ...) so that a true sense for quality is being more and more lost.
It is without any doubt that the pupils nowadays carry within their backpack of personal circumstances and conditions a heavy burden of civilisationary miss-developments. That makes it e.g. more and more difficult for us every year to form our class 1 – although we get many more applications than we can admit pupils. More and more children lack the ability to concentrate and get involved with the work they are doing. Parallel to them missing the contact with matter and real, natural things they instead get lost more and more in front of the computer or play station. They know less and less what to talk about with each other (except for movies and computer games) and are overtaxed by situations when they have to develop a strategy to keep themselves busy when there is no program offered from outside. They are not used to experience awe and allow themselves to being touched by circumstances any more. Instead, the head quickly interferes, relativises or explains everything. They grow up in a world where everything can be bought and exchanged.
What makes teaching so exciting is that on the other hand children and young adults long to be met more urgently than ever before, it seems. Not just seen and given tasks to but properly met from individuality to individuality. This makes teaching in front of a whole class more and more difficult. But this is also a reason why working through the medium of art becomes more and more important. In the setting of an art and crafts class it is much easier to meet very individually and to be able to say the one very personal word that the child was waiting for to hear.
And even more: one works with a medium that allows the children to speak the truth that lies inside themselves and couldn’t find the right way of expression. Furthermore through art the children are able to touch a truth that lies beyond the every day, a truth that has no space in normal life but is unconsciously sensed by them. Through the help of art they are allowed to become active in a realm of qualities that one can’t easily work with any more: The qualities of the life forces, the emotions and the secrets of form as such. And although the tendency is to push away the subjects that are not “necessary” – like art – the children very strongly feel the need to work artistically and with real matter in context of real human interchange.
This longing for receiving space and help to being able to realize the “tasks” one came down on earth with I try to meet in a context that my school develops: In project blocs where pupils are invited to break up the conventional barriers between the subjects and to work on themes and in contexts that have no space at schools normally. We had very good projects concerning the German history (Nazi and Socialist) with touching visits to historical places and encounters with inspiring people, we have projects concerning nuclear energy, world religions, politics, pupil initiated development projects and many more. With the German teacher, I myself formed heads in clay and wrote short stories inspired by questions about the archetypal human qualities from out of the “Faust” bloc in class 12 – which was very exciting. I constructed and build a bench for the school grounds with students, build two beautiful (proof and working!) canoes, a big flow form, that fascinated the pupils immensely (my grateful thanks and greetings to John Wilkes!) and introduced the concept of “Open Atelier”.
The latter I enjoy the most because it invites students to come with their own ideas in the context of sculpture and carpentry – and they do come! In these blocs I have pupils building shelves, forming human and animal sculptures, different therapeutic pieces and metamorphosis´ (one for example with the title “Separation – and then?”), one carving a huge female torso, build an exquisite living room table, design a lamp, a longbow, repairing frames for inside a beehive – and this is by far not half of it. In common they have the enthusiasm and excitement for their very personal task that lies close to their heart. And in the end the pride and satisfaction that they have achieved it, that they created something that totally makes sense for them and that is a benefit for the (their) world. For who are we teachers to tell them exclusively what is of importance to them and their future life? For myself it was the possibility to build myself a canoe in class 12 that, up till today, stands as a cornerstone in my biography. How many children still have the opportunity to shape the world in the true meaning of the word? Much too many have to realize that no one has time for them and gives them the space and support they need. But children are the future!
Of course I’m also teaching my own interpretation of the classic pallette of waldorf art curriculum, which besides is a very exciting topic taken by itself. But since I’m working at a school that prides itself for being experimental and innovative I want to focus in this article on the aspects of my work that might indeed be slightly different from what is being done in the context of art at waldorf schools elsewhere. Just so much: besides teaching Modelling in class 5 (Animals) up to class 8 (scenes from ballads, e.g. “The Pledge” by F. Schiller, which is a very good one to translate into form) I also give classes in woodcarving. Here we start by learning the right use of different tools and carve different small objects in class 5, then go through the well known sequence of spoons, toys and bowls to arrive at shelves and small pieces of furniture in the carpentry bloc in class 9.
The introduction into modern art/abstraction in class 10 seems to make sense and the theme relief is – pedagogically – very fruitful in class 11. (Although, for the last push of enthusiasm and refinement in casting I always miss the humorous unshakable authority of the world famous master of plaster casting, Rudolf Kaesbach).
Only one theme I want to mention a bit more in detail. This is the one which I’m always looking forward to teaching in class 7. Two years ago I started to ask the pupils: which are your Idols? Who do you want to become? In the beginning of the full eruption of puberty and the turmoil in their emotional life they start to search for role models and any save ground they can refer their feelings and longings to. And to be able to write a short story about their Idol, they have to find out now: what does the person actually look like that I want to grow into? Not just the outer appearance and not the actual sports star X, singer Y or actor Z that impresses me. But the person that I myself want to become. What is the quality that wants to be embodied by myself?
Through these stories they are writing I’m allowed to meet the children, to take part in their adoration of true virtues and to stand beside them and stare in their abyss. These are stories like the one of an Idol called Elizabeth who was chosen by the man whom all the women adored and who choose and married her because Elizabeth was truly herself. Or the Inquisitor who “shall not stand for a specific person but is a symbol for myself to help me become a different person. On the one hand I want to portray the good, on the other hand the evil qualities. The person itself shall be raised above all that. One should be able to see how these qualities fight each other inside him while he is untouched by all this.” From the many maybe one more that made me wonder in amazement about the deep inner wisdom that the children carry within themselves and allow us to take part in when we – like Parzival – ask the right question. In this story a boy called Jack finds himself all alone in the world when he comes home from school. His parents got killed by an evil king. Soon he himself is being kidnapped by the kings soldiers and brought to a country “between the two worlds”. There he meets Victoria, a girl who has the ability to heal. But yet she doesn’t know that she is in real a unicorn like Jack himself doesn’t know that he is a dragon.
What magic and powerful images for this age. Images to explain ones own situation in the “between” of dark and light, joy and fear, love and pain and to characterize ones own potentials as a healer and a fire blowing shaper of the world!
But this is just the first step. The second is to shape this dream, to make it real. In our school context this means to model it in clay. And in the course of this searching and awakening there are again and again the most precious moments to meet in one to one conversations, to question and clarify the foggy sense for the role model that lives inside the pupil and wants to find its right shape and expression. The result is often the creation of the most touching and beautiful human figures that carry within themselves a whole cosmos of qualities – potentials of an emerging individuality.
Much more I could write about precious experiences in my school life. The repeated ones like the delight in the eyes of class 5 pupils chopping away on their piece of wood. Or the special ones – like the LandArt projects during a forestry placement and at a class 12 trip to a wild little island in Croatia – or forestry placements in general in which the class 9 “rowdies” find themselves doing something that makes sense and is needed, that is challenging their own limits (endurance, coordination, for some also: to get dirty) and sees them all becoming peaceful and satisfied – or class 12 trips in general with guided experiences of the kind of Andrew Wolpert (thanks and greetings to him!) and the waking up and becoming excited for art by pupils who lived only for shopping and boyfriends before –
One class 11 student told me just a few days ago that he suddenly understood what benefits he got out of the art and crafts classes when (15 years old) he found himself working on a farm for half a year (because he wasn’t able at that time to see any point in going to school). Although this was not a primarily artistic area he now worked in, he found himself being boosted by his art and craft experiences. He was already used to working with tools, being skilled and knowledgeable in how different materials react and having a feeling for the needs of spaces and how to shape things in accordance to their use. Even if he will discover many more reasons still further in the future for the deep and positive impact that working in art and crafts made on him, this was an unexpected and therefore even more important feedback for me as art teacher.
All these experiences and conclusions are a confirmation for me that working through art is even more necessary nowadays than ever before. And this especially with children who are still open and will form the future society. As an unstoppable tendency it seems as if the natural reality withdraws and the reality that occupies the ground instead is a virtual one without being spiritual. The human being is left in a space that is not open but void – filled with the maya of masses of “necessary” goods but emptied of values and meaning. It doesn’t invite us to grow and develop experience and understand in a higher sense but leaves us with no nourishment to shrinking and crumbling inwardly. Against this dying of the earths life forces the best remedy seems to be the reawakening of the childlike playfulness, the sense for awe and wonder and the ability to observe, find the essence and shape and transform the world in countless little approaches towards a resurrected and living organism.
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My artistic development since leaving Emerson and arriving back home in Australia has been varied and interesting. The urge /desire/wish to just do art and my commitment to being here for my son Sam in these last four years of his high schooling have been strong ‘forces’ in my life. The insistence of life has kept me busy needing to earn money, learning through action, taking risks and being in flow...or sometimes not.
After arriving back home I moved 400km south to a town on the coast where Sam had recently moved to with his Mum. Sam lives with me 50% of the time and for the last 4 years it has been on a two week, two week turn around. So I had to start earning a living, looking after Sam again and doing my art. I have a large shed where I live...about 12m x 12m.. which I divided in half for a studio space and a workshop space. I virtually started off where I left from at Emerson with my sculpture art work. I worked a lot with clay, spent time in nature...the beaches here are amazing (it’s been tough..) getting a ‘feel’ for the geology energy of this new place. In the first year or two I went to every art thing happening in town and the region and in no time I had a whole bunch of new arty friends. Naturally I filtered through all that to meet people I connected to. It has been a steep learning curve into the art world here and one which I become involved in at times and then other times I pull back and question it all.
I applied ( the application process is intense and challenging) for and won a very important grant from Country Arts WA (govt art body) that was a mentoring grant for regional areas. Only one is allocated per year. It allowed me to have mentoring from a professional well known sculptor from our capital city for the year of 2008. It was a big and busy year. The grant helped pay my travel to Perth and his fees etc for us to meet a dozen times or so. We both enjoyed the process even when we were challenged by each other. He was never sure about my ‘spiritual art’ and philosophising and I wasn’t always that keen on his great art knowledge and ability without acknowledgement of any spiritual/metaphysical understanding. We ...well me anyway... did like the balance between quirky, intellectual, constructed, figurative sculpture and organic, abstract, energetic life forms. He did get me into the habit of doing a lot of sculpture no matter how good it was or wasn’t, encouraging me to draw a lot more, encouraged me to write more about what I do, and to apply for all art competitions, projects, etc, etc in order to build on successes and get used to failure and be immersed in my own art. Total immersion doesn’t always work for me as I have to or need to pull back often with my own questions as to why I am doing ‘art’ and what exactly am I doing, my relationship to the world and what I need for me.
So on the two weeks I have Sam with me I do all stuff I need to with/for him. I work at home in the studio, keep fit, fall in love, organise work etc in Perth 400km away. On the other two weeks I often travel to Perth to do building/reno type work, sculpture work and attend other art talks etc that I can’t do here. I like to earn enough money in that two weeks to keep me going for the next few weeks as well. Often I do so I have plenty of time to do my art. Sometimes it’s been all work and no money and no art. I am better at it now, I know how to earn more money and have more time off. I have big gaps between art time in the studio or art projects. Partly this is me not being sure about art stuff and partly it is me not being proactive enough in the business of it all.
I earn half my money through art projects and half through building work. In the last 10 months or so I have been doing work that uses the skills of both. So I am focussing my business on projects and clients that require that. ie: shires and councils, architects and developers, etc that often need park/street furniture, minor works, etc that are practical, skilled and can have an artistic element to them. I need more time in the studio but that will come as well. I am slowly discovering the work and projects that I like and suit me and that pay well. This has taken longer than I expected but I am often told how lucky I have been or how successful as not many artists are earning well doing art.
I have found that that is not always true. I have found and spoken to many successful artists. There are challenges as with any business however all things are possible. The question is often what is the ‘right’ thing, where do I fit in or want to, where is my ego/Ego in this, etc etc which often clash with how much I need to earn and the urgency of that and being restrained in what will sell now, etc.
As to answering your questions more directly... the training helped me understand and express more about myself, the world I live in and anthroposphy. From that understanding I am finding new ways to survive and/or thrive in the world which has been and is so overwhelming at times for me.
Some of the bridges etc have been meeting good people, being involved in the local art scene where I live, doing mainstream and local art courses, workshops etc to do with business and art development, and also continuing with my own studio work and study as much as possible. Giving talks and presentations helped initially to help meet like minded people and to feel more confident with my own art practice and interests.
Some of the things I did not learn in the training were the business and studio practice side of things. Business is very important these days, particularly as an adult, and no matter what we are doing it takes time to learn and develop a business sense and confidence ...especially in the arts. How to run my own studio and art practice and how to develop that, more often than not on my own, has been a challenge and a constant work in progress. Also I find I have needed some strategies to develop my own themes and interests and to value those interests.
As for any specific things the world has asked of me...I’m not sure. Sometimes what I am doing and why etc seems clear. Other times not at all and I find I pull right back from the art and the world and question it all. I have found that the more I do in the world and even the more I wish to understand of the world then the more I need to know of myself in a conscious way and have a self confidence and strength of Ego that supports me. Now, there’s a challenge...