2006, „Farben des Lichts“, Katalog, Dr. Alfred Kren

The courage to marvel:
The art of Gerdi Gutperle

Gerdi Gutperle is quite remarkable. In her mid-fifties, she discovers painting for herself, and in less than 8 years she creates an oeuvre of painting that for sheer abundance is without rival. At enormous speed, but also with persistence and patience, she acquired a range of painting tools with which she adds dimensions to her paintings like the annual rings of a tree.

And with her characteristic commitment, she places the entirety of the proceeds from her artistic work at the service of the foundation she has brought into being and which is engaged in a highly remarkable project: In Sahaya Nagar-Vellamadam, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, work is in progress on building the »Gerdi Gutperle Agasthiyar Muni Child Care Centre«, the construction and operation of which is being funded out of the resources of the foundation. This child health care centre will provide all sick children, regardless of their religion or caste, at no charge with the best possible medical care. But the Gerdi Gutperle Foundation has also provided help to tsunami victims. On 19th March 2006, 40 houses were handed over to fishermen’s families who had lost virtually all their belongings in the tsunami disaster. The aim of the Gerdi Gutperle Stiftung is above all to give children in the region stable prospects for the future.

Travel has always been a source of ideas for Gerdi Gutperle’s painting, and the sometimes highly personal impressions that have resulted form only one part of the great melting pot from which she draws her motifs. In painting, there is a kind of deposit of things that can be painted – still lifes, landscapes or portraits on the one side, and abstract art on the other. Cézanne’s still lifes with fruit contrast with the Malevich’s Black Square, Picasso’s Vollard portrait with Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, and so on. It sometimes seems, therefore, as if no further portrait, no further still life or landscape could be painted without creating a copy of something that has already been done – and yet people carry on painting.

When the conventions are particularly strong, one needs, like a vine, very long roots in order to give the finished fruit a flavour of its own. Only this can explain how Gerdi Gutperle has succeeded in taking a genre like the still life, and in particular the still life with flowers, and setting her own distinctive stamp on it. Echoes of Georgia O’Keefe, whose plants and flowers were always also gently imbued with an erotic desire and the intensification of an almost physical pleasure, are obviously called up at the sight of the interwoven flowers and calyxes. Gutperle’s canvas »My Jewels« (»Meine Juwelen«) from the year 1999 succeeds in conjuring up precisely these feelings, but without becoming a mere copy of the sujets painted long before her time. Works such as »Imaginative Thoughts« (»Fantasievolle Gedanken«) of 2001 and »In Motion« of 1999 are demonstrations of Gutperle’s persistent searching that ultimately enables her to create something all her own. Unintentionally, no doubt, she calls lifelines in the painting of our century into question, and it becomes clear that seemingly »worn-out sujets« can be filled with new life.
Gutperle’s landscapes have arisen in a similar way, at the same time offering more and more imaginary space into which the artist could pour her own visions, her own wishful thinking. Rejecting the natural need for harmony and balance, the increasingly abstract pictures are a vent for inner conflicts and yearnings. The result of this process are pictures such as »Link« (»Verbindung«) and »Meeting«, in which the figurative elements can be seen only hazily. Like in an x-ray, the pure outlines of the original forms can still be made out, but then vanish altogether in a swirling mass of colour and pigment. In a picture such as »Spirit of Angkor«, there is nothing to remind us of the smack of terror at hazarding the next step into unknown territory, at encountering nothing and not turning back, at realizing oneself artistically and bringing a new being into the world. That is what where the artist’s courage, and Gerdi Gutperle has such courage, putting herself at the mercy of the creative current. Allowing herself to be carried to the depths and heights of this current - this can explain the sometimes hefty swings in the oeuvre of paintings of Gerdi Gutperle.

It is not by chance that, on her travels, the artist creates photographs in which strangers - and sometimes strange people - look straight into the eye of the camera, without shyness and with just as much curiosity as that of the artist, who manages, in her photographs, to bring genuine nature to light. Gutperle’ paintings are triggered by a large number of small observations, which in turn create new pictures.

One of the fascinating things about Gutperle‘s is that they are always striving for unity, even where collage elements make integration seem difficult. One could even go further and say that a motif of healing and wanting to heal can be seen throughout the entire oeuvre, like a continuous thread.

Through the paint-print-paint technique, whereby motifs are woven together on the computer, then printed out and subsequently painted over, Gerdi Gutperle has succeeded in making large numbers of highly personal impressions and motifs increasingly abstract, and also uncovering pictogram-like structures. One often has the feeling that Gerdi Gutperle initially bows to convention, only to rebel against it a short time later. This also explains why Gerdi Gutperle nearly always revisits a successfully chosen, successful executed motif. She repeatedly returns to it and strives, in different work steps, to plumb the full depth of the picture. Consequently, for a number of motifs, including »Creator’s Programme« (»Schöpferprogramm«) and »Exchange« (»Austausch«) or »Genius« (»Genie«) and »Meeting«, one can find variations on a theme, which fascinatingly illustrate the artist’s sense of colour, and her intuition. The resulting polyphony of the colours calls colour sounds to mind, in a breadth ranging from symphony to chamber music.

It is very much to be wished that Gerdi Gutperle can preserve this originality which allows her to approach, without preconceptions but with unstinting commitment, a world full of wonders that is reflected in her pictures.