When my mother died the priest asked me ‘what did she do for you when you were a child?’
I had to think for a while. Then it came to me that she always allowed my brother and myself ‘to be creative’ which was unusual and difficult in a German household during the 50s and 60s because everything had its place and there was a certain order that could not be broken. I was often allowed to stay up late and work on my paintings in the living room. She encouraged me to visit the local painter, Heinrich Neuy. We often engaged in conversations about art. He had been a Bauhaus student and was making abstract paintings which was unusual in those days.
Engaging with art at an early stage in my life gave me a sense of freedom which has been very important throughout my life.
My mother could not develop a career as an artist. When she had been a child the family household rules had been strict. She was allowed to go to art school but never finished it because of the war. After the war she took up weaving and was involved in the local community centre but she could never follow her dream to become a painter herself. For women of her generation that was an impossibility.
But even nowadays it is very difficult for a woman to live as artist. Husband and children are often the main reason. There is often very little time left to follow creative processes, men or women.
My German identity is complex and difficult. I was born 10 years after the war which is not a long time after such a disaster and loss of identity. There were many characters such as Heinrich Boell, Josef Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, etc. trying to re-build a different German identity. But again it was men at the forefront. I came to Ireland in 1988, I loved the music and the culture. For me Ireland was necessary to take distance from my past.
For the last 5 years I have been spending the winter months in Lanzarote confronted with another interesting culture. I came to the conclusion that a national identity is of no importance for me, being European is enough.
But where is my identity as a woman and especially as a female painter?
From 1998-2000 I did an MA in Fine Art at Limerick School of Art and Design. I started researching female artists and their pathways. Is it possible to find specific visual language that expresses a female identity?
I started making large abstract paintings based on landscape followed by colourful free abstractions using organic forms.
The current body of work is figurative. I draw into a mixture of sand and glue. Then I paint further and I am looking at woman in a different way. I am trying to paint what it feels like to be a woman. I repeat the image and different feelings enter, different women arrive. They all seem to have a different character, I paint myself in different ways. It became a personal research rather then a research concerned with art historical movements. The work is personal without losing an objective eye and becoming over-emotional.
Injustice - Justice
I think that women in my family were ‘hard done’ by. The male in the family usually inherited and controlled property and money, naturally that came with duty and responsibilities. But women did not make decisions, did not study to hold a position in society. My aunt did not inherit the house, my father did. My mother never owned anything when she moved into my father’s house. Women were well looked after but had no rights. It was more a feeling of being helpless and useless then a visible reality.
I felt that history was going to repeat itself after my father’s death because my brother was the executive of the will and I felt I had no rights.
Thank God there is a law in Germany and my parents had left a will. My brother had to share everything with me. A lot of anxiety came up when I had to deal with the situation. The communication was difficult because of the past and I felt I had to be really cleaver to survive this, emotionally and financially. It took two years to resolve everything. The law, and changes in the law after the war helped tremendously. It re-insured me that I have rights and have to be treated equally.