Dr. Dietmar Schuth

The quest for paradise
Some reflexions on Gerdi Gutperle’s pictures

Paradise is a myth - one that has been dreamed by virtually all cultures and religions of this world since time immemorial. The word is of Persian origin and means a »walled garden«. The ancient Greeks knew it as Elysium. In the Old Testament, it becomes the Garden of Eden, a verdant oasis, though one that is, in fact, a mere mirage in the middle of the desert.

And what is it called today, this paradise? Where is it, and how can people find it? Many search for it in the palaces of wealth, in the golden cage of a luxurious life. Others hope to find it as a permanent holiday home under the southern sun, amid the captivating floral splendour of tropical gardens, on deserted Caribbean beaches, in the divers’ dream worlds of the South Sea, or in the near-to-heaven solitariness of the mountains of Nepal.

However, paradise is not a real place at all, a place that can be reached by plane. Although it is true that anyone wanting to get to paradise has to fly; not with the body, though, but only in the mind, and with the feelings. For paradise is near at hand to everybody, whether rich or poor. It is an internal place, a refuge of calm, of peace, of happiness and childish innocence, which can probably be more easily reached with the wing beats of a butterfly than on board a modern jet plane.

Gerdi Gutperle searches for this paradise, the happiness and the childish innocence, in her pictures. She searched the whole world for it, until one day – at home – she discovered that world which can at least open up a keyhole for her to the heavenly gates: the world of art. A visionary had given her this tip years before. And now, for about the last four years, Gerdi Gutperle has been painting as if in a state of intoxication, producing one picture after another and coming close to happiness.

Gerdi Gutperle’s preferred subject, which she paints with great love, are flowers and heavenly landscapes, out of »reverence for creation«, as she herself states. She paints flowers because, in form and colour, they are the most beautiful objects that nature has invented and because still today, they are a realistic challenge for every painter. She paints the sky with its sunsets because its cloud formations and atmospheric light effects anticipate the art of abstraction, are a source of fascination to the coloristic eye, and are an ideal medium for her glazing oil technique.

Yes, Gerdi Gutperle prefers the classical techniques; she is a modern artist of the old school. Also in her choice of motifs, her pictures of nature, she joins a long tradition, placing herself among the ranks of the many who so much love the irises of a Vincent van Gogh, the water lilies of a Claude Monet, the botanical studies of an Albrecht Dürer, or the hundred-petalled Chinese tea roses in the still life paintings of the Low Countries. However, Gerdi Gutperle’s paintings are no copies of Old Masters; rather, she discovers in nature a timeless beauty that can be rediscovered as something completely new time and time again. She paints her own, unique flowers: roses and hibiscus blossoms, aquilegia and anemones, irises, mallows and marguerites, parrot tulips, orchids, and many more besides, or in other words that »walled garden« of ancient Persia, where sometimes birds of the same name live and where blue butterflies beat their wings, but outside whose gates also lions and leopards wait in ambush.

Some of Gerdi Gutperle’s flowers seem almost matter-of-fact, like botanical portraits executed in painstaking, naturalistic perfection. Others float in a much freer impressionism, which with light and airy ductus and delicate brush present the flowers in a much more gentle light. And in other pictures again, the natural beauty of the blooms is given an expressionist complexion, with sharp colour contrasts intensifying the tenderness to the passionate or even erotic. And sometimes, especially in her more recent works, Gerdi Gutperle’s exuberant hymn to nature sometimes even moves into a fantastic or surreal dimension. In these cases, she pushes the colours beyond those of the real-life model and places them in a strange, unfamiliar light, paraphrasing the forms outside of the original botanical building plan. The result are flowers that do not really exist and such as perhaps only blossom in that visionary place of the imagination - in paradise.

Thus, her latest picture, for example, bears the title »Seed of Infinity« (»Keim der Unendlichkeit«), and in it, Gerdi Gutperle breaks away from the study of nature and the superficial allures of a lovely flower. Instead, she liberates the colours and forms, which now only occasionally bear flowers or vegetal associations. Indeed, in this course-setting painting, the colours and forms have acquired a gestural dynamic and appear to have shaken off their fetters, as have, perhaps, the feelings that may be hidden behind them. These free lines float before a blue background; they shroud it and block the view of infinity, as do the lianas of a jungle. They circumscribe a maze in which the searching eye, which is drawn into the distance by a yearning blue, becomes caught. Perhaps these are the convoluted paths in the search for one’s own self and that mystical place in all of us - paradise. But the way there is only known to the blue butterfly, and to all who are willing to follow it.