Ulrike Arnold
Earth paintings
Meteroite paintings

Article from: JUNGE KUNST, Nr. 69 (Januar – März 2007)
by Engelbert Broich

Ulrike Arnold – Painter with earth and stardust

Breathtaking formed landscapes. Various, bizzare, mainly scanty structures, gripping into eachother. Sand, rock-debris and bound minerals. Wrinkled crests, whirled rocks, fashioned by wind and water. Even Anselm Springs´ photograph of a counterfoil of the Notom-desert region in the US state of Utah is able to mediate its relief nobility. In the fore-ground of the motif a woman descends into a crater. Long, white pants, wide shirt and a brown hat protecting her body from the burning sun. Under her arm she is carrying a rolled canvas. We meet the same woman in the picture of the smal plateau Luna Mesa, also Utah. It shows her kneeling in front of a canvas by turning her back towards a rock-formation and debris lying around. She is working, continuing the composition she had begun with fingers and hands. On the ground, covered with stones, splinters, sand and earth, bowls and paint-brushes to stir the material, as well as a hammer. The mineral material which is to be found left hand side in different plastic bags-sorted in kind and colour had been beaten and crushed before with the hammer.

Since more than 25 years Ulrike Arnold is painting worldwide in special places with minerals, stones and earth, which were digged from the location. She intuitively traces the complexity, the special atmosphere and aura of the landscapes, mainly remote from civilisation and magic-mystic places, in order to catch and bundle efficient power there: original areas, formed by force of nature not by man power, sometimes even misanthropic areas. A. is painting on plateaus in deserts and canyons (among them Grand and Brcyl Canyon) close to volcanos and table-mountains, in the wildness, in neverland. Mostly she is hiking through these landscapes. So it may take days before she arrives at an "appropriate place". In the self-chosen lonelyness, the huge silence, the emptiness and endless seeming wildness of magnificant nature, she spends more days, up to a few weeks, completely on herself. Equipped with only tent, sleeping-bag, provisions and painting material she is displaying herself mostly extreme plus or minus temperatures, the changing weather and unfamiliar fauna. "Being on my own, absolute silence, watching nature´s progress, like the course of the sun make me quiet and fearless. I feel good", is one of her diary records. This can be considered thoroughly as typical for the entire development which Arnold went through since she has started to travel: So her initial fear of nature´s phenomenous and toxic inhabitants changed into a respectful and in fact trusting relationship with nature - a feeling of being in good hands.

Fascinating History of Nature
In her paintings the 56-year old artist from Düsseldorf realizes her unbroken fascination to earth´ various beauty, history of nature for different forms of landscapes and minerals of the earth with its quite distincting qualities in material and colour. She is always interested in the momentary history of culture, the inhabitants and their way of living. One example is her stay in central Australian Yuludumu, an Aborigines region, 300 kms north-west from Alice Springs, where she met native painters. "Body-paintings in ochre still are permanent components of Aborigines´ rituals," Arnold says. They allowed the German woman to dig at their ochre sites. She even crept into a special "holy" cave in a table-mountain over dark red, soft boulders, together with the Aborigines. "My skin had a metallic red shimmer. This red was more intensive than any before. As a proof she takes a small piece of the extraordinary long lasting pigments out of the numberless little bags, which are lined up in her studio.

Arnold's portraits of the landscapes are neither conventional nor optinal. They are unique in their character, unrepeatable, each one a result of a special place, a special time frame. Whatever turns out to be true about other art, applies in a special way to her creative work: Her real awareness of regions with all her senses, her entering into special places and feeling the mood there, combined with state of mind in that special moment, ends up in an intuitive act of painting. "By wandering in a landscape I find myself part of it. Earth is carrying me while I am walking." Accordingly the paintings are generated by using her entire body. This is implied by the size of most canvases. She walks around them, steps upon them, kneels or sits on them, putting on the earth paint with branches, sticks, stones and brushes and especially with her fingers and hands. "The painting-gesture develops from a movement of the body originating from the memory of moving through the landscape, the aura which I have experienced", the absolver of Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts and master scholar of professor Rinke's class describes.

Her pictures are gleaming in different shades. Dark green and sound malachit, azur to intensive blue lapis lazuli or yellow, red or white, shining ochre are covering the canvases. Also tense, mat shades and dark colours, such as earth brown in different ranges, warm copper red, miscellaneous shades of black... Her paintings are abstruct, living, fine to coarse-grained sometimes embossed shapes. Their places of origin are spred over all continents. Among other locations, Arnold was walking in Provence, Island, Armenia and Germany, in Itaberita/Brazil, Hahotoe/Togo, North Yemen, South India, Japan, South and Central Australia and over and over again the USA, in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Innocent Spaces
Just like land-artist Mike Heizer, Arnold is visiting "innocent, empty, silent and religious" spaces. Although she is creating transitory rock paintings and ground installations (documented on pictures and films), her art cannot be considered as land-art in a traditional way. Generally spoken, conformity does excist surely in the counter position to an overflowing artificial world, including art expression, which Arnold calls "new art media", where a "soul" cannot be found. Her sometimes graphic, sometimes faced seeming paintings aim to the contrary. Emotions and moods are written down into them like in a diary. Those non-figurative records, "her motives" result from watching, spotting the energy of the respective plateaus, canyons, deserts, caves, river valleys, as well as her own feelings.

By using original, spontaneously found material, she refers to the unity of artistic idea and its realisation. Different kinds of earth and stones not only are self-evident parts of an inspiring landscape. The artistic process is made possible by these materials. Herewith spontaneity and control, intuitive painting gesture and mindful laying-on grip into eachother. Arnold communicates with the beginning picture. The required steps result from sort of a dialogue. The emotional arranging and aware composing is somehow related to Jackson Pollock's method of painting, which he used to explain as "the natural growing out of necessity". Although Arnolds gradual proceeding does not match with the dynamic discharge of action painting, not to mention the ecstatic "dripping" of the American painter. Also, she does not meet comprehensively the criterion of informal or conceptional art, even though the impression is obtruding. Especially because "relatives" are offered presumptively and one is inclined again to deduce or construct a connection, it should be stated that none of the existing "models" apply to Arnold. Her art is unique. Her artistic idea is complex, as said, and cannot be fixed to the aesthetic appearance of the picture only. This on its own is already impressing. The natural materials and colours grant Arnold's paintings such a sensual presence, they submit such a deep archaic relation, which could never be achieved by artificial colours for example.

For the mutual exhibition "Natural Reality" shown in Ludwig Forum 1999 which documented the various relations to nature and artificially dealing with it, made by contemporary artists from nine countries, Arnold created seven overdimensional formats in South West American and North Mexican derserts. They measure each seven to one meter and eighty, scintillating in different colours. Having been painted in seven places like Luna Mesa and Black Mesa Boulder in Utah, Abiquin and Guadeloupe Canyon in New Mexico, Flagstaff and Zacatecas Canyon, Bisbee in Arizona, as well as Mesa Blanca Sonora in Mexico, they not only bundle the actual energies of the remote location. In their completness Arnold also relates to the mystic-magic-ritual character of the universal number seven. Dealing with such kind of symbol - the great meaning of number seven can be followed through nearly all times and cultures. It structures scientific realities, mystic and biblical phenomena - it plays a special roll in fairy tales and religion- it is one of the characteristics in Arnold's work. Her active as well as passive interest in rock painting another. That means she does not use canvas only as a porter. In different, remote places on our planet she has also painted on walls of rocks and caves. One of those for example is the segment of the high, ochre coloured sandstone rock in San Francisco Wash, close to Navajo-reservation east from Flagstaff. "The discussion is vivacious and intensive. Coarse, rough surfaces, cracks, traces of weathering, wreathe, broken off stratified rocks, ferric oxide inclusions", as Arnold describes the conditions there in her diary.

Picturec of Meteorites

Since four years meteorite particles are also getting important in Arnold's work, which is unique in the world. What has started as a random aquaintance to a meteorite specialist is regarded closely a consequent continuity, dealing with places and their nature - even if it is the universe. It is their determined extension into heaven, so to speak.

The great US American USGS for Astrology in Flagstaff, Arizona, celebrated the 30th universary of Apollo mission in September 2002, Arnolds tells. She succeeded in taking part and met Harrison Schmid, one of the astronauts of the last fly to the moon, with whom she jokingly exchanged "secret wishes" like going on a space mission as a crew member in order to get material from the universe this way. Next day the participants climbed into Canyon de Diabolo nearby, a giant meteorite crater in which the astronauts used to exercise. "We were slipping down a steep slope", Arnold recalls, "when an American with a large cowboy hat addressed to me: "Are you into the Mars project?" I stumbled that I am not a scientist, but a painter with earth of five continents. We both nearly hurled down, because like being struck by a meteorite impact he shouted:" I am a meteorite scientist and collector and I am collecting worldwide!"

His name is Martin Killgore. Together with his wife Kitty a geologist and chemist they run the renowned Arizona Southwest Meteorite Center and laboratory in Tuscon. The "Indiana Jones" of meteorite science traces remains worldwide, which are examined afterwards on age, origin and metallic composition. By sawing the objects scrap falls off, he tells Arnold. Scrap that could be of interest to artists, as he had always presumed. Anyway, Killgore offered some of the worthy splinters to the artist to work with. She could not believe it. "Did not I wish to paint with material from the universe the other day? Now the star-dust fell to my share like in a fairy tale."

According to latest acknowledgement the meteorites that had hit our planet hereby brought the building-stones to live. As creators of our existence they opened the way to new kinds. Billions of years ago, before genesis they were built in our universe. Now Arnold is using these mystic materials, metal-contenting minerals and nickel-ferric compound which comes from places of discovery in Argentina (Camp del Cielo), China (Fukong), Greenland(Cape York), Namibia (Gibeon) and USA (Canyon Diabolo, Portales Valley). One of these extraordinary pictures has made its way into the Düsseldorf Museum of Arts. The surfaces glitter silvery and anthracite, they are carrying a black and dark brown colour. They draw their tension form the compo- sition, together with this dark impenetrability. Here it seems to be dense - there disintegrated. Here the material completely covers the canvas, while Arnold is operating in- tensified there with leaving off and "emptiness".

The expansion of painting material on such ultimate substances, such metal components of asteroids and comets emphazises Arnold's interest in the power of nature and original depth. Those silent eternal traces, either earthly material or messanger from the universe, either shining mineral, soft-shades to strong gleaming earth of silvery shining to dark oxidized star-dust - she knows how to make safe those traces in a very sensual way. She combines them to mysterious attracting poetry of earthly, as well as cosmic - to intensive expressive-lyric abstractions. It is dealig with micro-universe. It is dealing with material and poetry consolidating landscapes. All in all they eventually visualize their inseparable union on our unique earth.

Engelbert Broich, Cologne

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