LET THERE BE...


“Let there be...” - We cannot help but automatically add the word “light”, thus referring back to the history of creation from the First Book of Moses in the Old Testament. Together with earth, water and air, light shapes our planet and sustains human, animal and plant life. Figuratively, light signifies enlightenment, insight and understanding. Enlightenment, as spiritual experience, is part of almost all religions. Understanding has influenced important eras such as the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Understanding turns into knowledge, which makes us what we are today.

 

Gerdi Gutperle's annual exhibition titled "Let there be..." combines large format mixed media paintings with pit fired ceramics, a technique which is thousands of years old. The connecting element of the exhibition concept is light.

 

The paintings of the artist are a result of a complex creative process. Mostly they originate from her own oil paintings, which are photographed and scanned for further processing on the computer. Then the artist adds photographs of her own to the electronic image. Layers are placed on top of each other, rotated, modified and reworked. In a further step the painting is printed on canvas and mounted on a stretcher frame. The over-painting that follows accentuates, draws the observer's attention to special parts in the painting and transfers things or individual zones to three-dimensionality.

 

The paintings have nothing in common with the reality we live in. We recognise flowers, trees, water drops and elements of buildings. The painting “Bright Vastness” leads us through a Gothic nave towards the light-flooded tracery windows of the choir and, following the artistic wall construction of the building, directs our eyes up to the vaulted ceiling. From there, originating from an imaginary knot, colourful ribbons are flowing towards us like beams of light. Autumn coloured leaves and rose hips cover the lower part of the interior, where the observer of the painting would be standing if he were visiting the basilica. “The basilica is not a secluded building but a path.”[1]. When Abbot Suger of St. Denis started the construction of the portal and the choir of St. Denis in the 12th century, the high and open walls were not built for aesthetic reasons. The opening for the light lent the basilica and its individual elements metaphoric significance. Light represented Christ, divine truth and revelation. This is exactly what Gerdi Gutperle conveys through her work and the way the observer is led through the interior.

 

If we take a very close look at the individual works and try to figure out what we see, we are reminded of sea beds, cosmic dimensions, glistening waters and encrusted earth formations. The paintings are all full of light, flowing over the surfaces in beams and points and in circling whirls. Divine spark, big bang, the creation of life - this is what comes to mind. There is no violence or loudness in the paintings. They have a mesmerising effect on the observer, making him want to dive into these light-flooded worlds, dream worlds - divine worlds, and become one with them. In meditative immersion we feel connected to Creation.

 

Gerdi Gutperle is a very kind, compassionate and spiritual woman. The well-being of people is very important to her and motivates her to take social responsibility. We are all affected and threatened by war, death, persecution, cruel executions and mass exodus. For this reason the ceramic artist Gerdi Gutperle created her Ambassadors of Peace, which in accordance with old tradition carry love and justice into the world and are to remind us to live together in peace.

 

The Ambassadors of Peace are block-like, cubical stelae, some bent sideways or twisted in themselves and are quite restrained in their design. Their appeal lies in the unique colouring, a result of the pit firing technique. These works are realised in many stages. First the piece is moulded from white clay, which contains a very high proportion of fireclay, then dried and polished with glass stones so as to create a smooth surface. After that the vessel or sculpture is wrapped in cotton cloth and various materials are added. It is then fired. Originally these pit fire ovens were simple pits in the ground. Gerdi Gutperle’s ceramics are fired in an oven outdoors since the salts that are added cause heavy vapours. The wrapped ceramics are enclosed in combustible materials such as wood, wood shavings or sawdust, metals and even seaweed and fill up the entire oven in layers. The glaze results from all these added materials during a two-day firing process at low temperatures of approximately 600° C. After cooling, the pieces are removed, cleaned and polished once more.

 

The patient work pays off. Gerdi Gutperle’s ceramics feature an explosion of colours: from soft grey to dull black and from soft orange-rose to intense red-orange, the individual colours interacting with each other. Coloured clouds, fogs, speckles, dots, fine lines are all next to and on top of each other. There aren’t any boundaries or sharp edges, everything is in flow and in motion. The surfaces are full of life and expression.

 

The artist considers the smaller sculptures of various sizes as mediators between the Ambassadors of Peace and people. They are shaped irregularly, featuring hollows and dents, but no sharp edges. They caress our hands and are meant to be held and touched. Even though they are pit fired ceramics as well, their colouring is more consistent, ranging in their expression from soft to strong and intense. There is a wide variety of colour shades for the observer to marvel at.

 

If we now recall the paintings, we can even see a connection between them and the ceramic works. The colours in both media are lively, not static or clearly defined, but flowing, transparent and superimposed. Divine spark, big bang, creation of life were the associations sparked by the paintings of Gerdi Gutperle and her ceramics have the same effect on us.

 

"Let there be..." leaves room for observers to develop their own ideas, wishes, hopes and expectations.

 

Dr. Bettina Broxtermann, November 2015

[1] Wilhelm Rüdiger, Die gotische Kathedrale. Architektur und Bedeutung, Köln 1979