7 x 7
Stones and Stardust
Ulrike Arnold works with earth, but does not make land art. She is a painter who uses earth as her paints. Her pictures are not created in a studio, but in the locations where she finds these earths. She travels to places, special places, special to her, on every continent. By making the journey, the process of creating her pictures has already begun. A great deal of time is spent working in Arizona, her second home, on the Colorado Plateau, with its wide-open spaces, its mesas surrounded by rubble, the canyons with their steep and deep gorges, topographies of desertedness, in which you can become lost at any time. But in which you can also and yourself.
It is a landscape of spirit and ghosts, reduced to a few simple and monumental forms, unreal and of a piercing clarity. In prehistoric times the Pueblo Indians settled here, the magni.cent culture of the Anasazi people, who mysteriously disappeared, quickly and without a trace. Contemporary artists refer to this landscape and its traditions - Walter de Maria with his Lightning Field, or James Turrell with his gigantic Roden Crater project near Flagstaff. And Ulrike Arnold with her earth pictures.
Earth is produced through organic decay and weathering, through the constant interaction between lithosphere and atmosphere, outcrops, climate and weather conditions, with every place in the world displaying its own, unmistakeable face. The specific signature of each place manifests itself in the pictures created there - American, African, Asian, Australian, and especially the meteorite pictures, are clearly distinguishable, not only by their colours, but also their forms and structures. Ulrike Arnold visits places, to work there, to spend an extended period of time there, to share the loneliness of these places for a while, to immerse herself in them. She scratches off samples of earth and fills them into small bags; she spreads her canvas on the earth like a giant cloth, over the relief of the surface, holding it down at the edges with stones.
She begins the process of painting by heaping, scattering, throwing and distributing the powdery coloured samples of earth over the prepared canvas, the difference in the colours being caused by mineral content and weathering - evolved, not manmade, pigments. It soon becomes clear that the picture is a part of this place, a direct expression of the time spent there. It is a section, and at the same time a whole.
Due to the size of the canvases, she uses her entire body when painting. The canvas lies in front of her and underneath her, she literally throws herself into it, moves in, and around, the developing picture. It is like a dance, which unfolds through intensive experience, persistent and exact perception of the place with all its phenomena, encompassing everything: geology, topography, extremely hot days, cold nights, sunlight and moonlight, shadows and wind, plants, animals, sounds, smells and energies. And, of course, everything you have already brought with you to this place - thoughts, experiences, recollections, and not least the intention to paint a picture. A picture in which all this manifests itself. A picture which is all of this. The process of painting creates the transformation.
Included in this cycle are also the meteorites, which Ulrike Arnold has been working with for some time. Messengers from unimaginable spaces and times, they are embodiments of the cycle on a cosmic level. Some of them carry water bound into salt crystals, as well as amino acids and trace elements, which are older than our solar system. There is almost an analogue movement, a correspondence between how this painter visits her places on the planet, and how the meteorites, massive congregations of stone and iron, inexorably find their places when they hit the earth.
When Ulrike Arnold talks about her work, she often uses the words coincidence, or chain of coincidences. This has nothing to do with coincidence in the sense of randomness, but rather with allowing things to happen. If your perception is truly open, the tissue of reality becomes transparent. It then becomes apparent that what we like to describe as coincidence is pure evidence. In order to get there, you need to remain .rmly focused on your path, an anachronism in our time. Then such pictures emerge, which portray places with immense intensity, in the very broad, as well as specific sense associated with the meaning of the word place: an extreme point which focuses everything - a place of transition and transformation.
Matthias Bärmann, February 2006