“I had only painted the first three motifs ‘Sunrise’, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Shining Moon’. Through careful contemplation and perceptive experiencing of the colours, lines and forms of these representative sketches, something was brought to life within. The all-consuming interest could only be expressed in the words, “These are indeed organisms”. One experienced something in these forms, something of which one had to say: “They are exact, that is – no accidental or arbitrary formations. They are not made in the likeness of any natural objects but the particular points of their form and movement are at the same time so adapted to one another, carry and determine one another to such a degree, only as in the limbs of a living organism, where every detail is connected with the whole in a necessary relationship. They are not copies of something – they live.”
This perception was something which would remain, and, gradually, decade after decade, would become more and more conscious.
The instruction had left me with a great riddle. Rudolf Steiner constantly states that form, arising out of the colour, should be the deed of the colour. One can assume that it happened in this manner in his own paintings.
Now, we had started each of the three beginning motifs by painting vermilion red – following the indication of the sketches: the first in the form of a rising sun, the second in the form of a setting sun, and the third in the form of three crescent moons. And a question arose in me: if we began three such different motifs with the same colour (as a first step on which paper, then – how does this relate to the above statement?
I began to look for the answers. I asked myself: If I were to change one colour ever so slightly in the build-up of the Motif Sketches (of which the first ones are painted with only three or four colours), how then would the form change? In this I followed a suggestion of Rudolf Steiner’s that one might paint on colour-tinted paper or might imagine before painting that the paper was colour-tinted.
Trial research sequences followed, painted on single papers of the same format: one colour, sometimes two, would follow, where one of them would change ever so slightly from row to row (for example, from blue-green to yellow-green, from cool red to warm red and so forth). With the colour change arose the question of the corresponding change in form. The difficult endeavour was made to take part in the life of colour, through one’s own experience.
And there the goal was set. How does one find the way into this life of colour? How does one learn to direct it so that the overall element of life can permeate the whole painting? How does living form arise out of colour?
Those are the big questions of the present whose answers may be sought for a whole lifetime. One never knows the answers, but makes trial after trial in the process of experience. In that consists the greater part of the work that is finally brought forth.
This method of practising evolved in order to train the perception of colour quality. For the Sketches of Rudolf Steiner had taught one thing from relatively early on: that living element into which one’s colours are constantly immersed and through which they are formed and made visible, can only be grasped through a perception from which the merely ‘subjective colour feeling’ has fallen away. One is seeking for an entry into the living, into the world of forming forces. This can only happen by setting up a method of study by painting one quality of colour being into the world of another.
So, I was standing at the beginning of a long road at that time. Many years were spent in seeming endless practising. To predict how long it would take to come to the ‘Beginning of Painting’ – to be able to paint a painting, as one would aspire to – was of course, impossible. An intimation of years, perhaps twelve to fourteen was felt necessary.
The question about form coming out of the colour, and to what extent it can be answered, depends on the ability to allow the colour experience to objectively and intensely permeate one’s being until it arrives at form. It isn’t until much later that one knows why it is so hard and what it means. The many trials in which one paints colour after colour on the paper, and still experiences nothing, are not to be avoided. Only in single instances, suddenly as lightning, has the perception reached the ground of true experience. One endeavours to grasp it, and find it again; as the years go on, these moments gradually increase. One day this process must flow from a constant wellspring of activity.
But even if one can never reach the goal of painting out of the forming forces – of lifting the veil of Isis; the training itself is a path toward becoming a complete human being, and whoever discovers it can only begin to tread it. Learning becomes the only grounds for painting.
A special help in eliminating arbitrary subjectivity is an exercise given by Rudolf Steiner which shows the way to ‘qualitative’ meaning. Measuring a proportion of colour is so important because it helps the painter to wake up, direct the movement of colour in the course of his development. It allows him to let his activity ‘dream into’ the experiencing of colour. At the same time he strives to sacrifice all his experience into the doing itself, to hold back none of his own feeling. That perceptive feeling must become at the same time, selfless, disciplined, pure-will activity.
Through the ‘sequence of colour choice’, through ‘measuring’ it and ‘weighing’ it, the forming itself emerged. The painter gave himself up to the colours as authority in that he sought to find the sources of their origin. Numbers of trials were made to let plant and animal forms come into being. An attempt was made to approach the forming forces in painting the human being ‘from out of the colour’. Rudolf Steiner has given many indications which lead into these spheres of existence. They begin with grasping the forces of sun and moon in the living organism of nature and the human being, and go step by step to the four great watercolour paintings of nature and man, which embrace the entire path: ‘New Life’, ‘Easter’, ‘Archetypal Plant’, ‘Archetypal Man’ or ‘Archetypal Animal’.
The Motif ‘Threefold Man’ became the key to extensive research into the forming forces of the human being from the point of view of archetypal forms. For these paintings of Rudolf Steiner’s come out of the structural organization of archetypal world pictures – and between the world where they have their archetypal being and our world, here where we earthly humans stand, there lie all the realms of nature. We are being invited to discover these realms anew from the inside-out of colour itself.
Whoever tries to tread this path can come to the conclusion that, he who can sufficiently follow through with the indications of Rudolf Steiner, can come to grasp the creative forming forces of colour and actually form with these forces in the life element without causing disharmony. In that Rudolf Steiner has given us such representations from out of colour-forming life, he has set a goal into the far future of painting.
Having the artistic work of Rudolf Steiner always at hand was the necessary prerequisite to take the path. At the same time, there was the intense experiencing of spiritual life in Dornach, including the arts of Eurhythmy and the Theatre, the effect of individuals like Marie Steiner, Albert Steffen and the many others who made their imprint. It is evident that all of this had most intense influence on my own work. It would have been unimaginable without these impulses. Rudolf Steiner had disclosed goals of humanity in connection to art and science.
The merely personal became devoid of meaning. Gradually the ‘experiments’ with colour, which became more and more consistent in their execution, from year to decade, took one a more distinct form. They led to sequences of metamorphosis which represented an endeavour to come to cognitions in terms of painting through methodically becoming one with the colours.
All the painting could find its place basically within the range of this experimental practising, for the paintings were done, above all, to build the ground for the relation between colour and its forming principles. The thought of painting ‘pictures’ that would eventually be exhibited or sold, appeared quite distant to me. The process of painting itself, immersing oneself ever and again in these mysterious beginnings, to hold and carry the colour in sway and balance, – that was what interested me. Not to push or pull the colour into an aforesaid Motif but rather to let it evolve through ever more exact insight into build up the rightful sequence of colours that lies at the source of the Motif – forming – such was my intention.
That is not only a painter’s problem but also a musical one. In the same way that the following of tones and intervals occur, so also do colours make their way through time, and become visible in space. In the wink of an eye they appear on the surface of the paper and there they are actually at the ‘end of their journey’. Their homeland is the astral world; they come through waves of etheric vibration into picture – forming and finally, they become, in their own right the forming essence in these forces. Therefore in the process of forming, the Motif first becomes conscious as it is manifested through the rhythm of the colour sequence. The Motif first becomes fully existent when the consciousness of the whole human being is satisfactorily fulfilled.
In 1950 the sculptor, now Elizabeth Wagner-Koch became my first painting student. Through the endeavour to make my path teachable and learnable, as far as it went, to another person, a working together came about, which through the course of the years evolved into a painting school. The book ‘The Individuality of Colour’ has became a fruit of this working together.”
– Translated by Katherine Rudolph
© Copyright 2005 Katherine Rudolph, Exploring The Word in Colour and Speech