Eduardo Planchart Licea
The aesthetics of Luisa Richter mutates the landscape in spiritual geometry; the sense of her creative action is the path to a conception of happiness that goes beyond the hedonism since it explores the history of spirituality and is guided by the constant reflection on the essence of reality that leads it to abstraction. She defines painting as an action: Happiness comes over me when I paint on a white canvas. For Luisa art is also intimately linked to love as Ovid stated in his Art of Love:
"Art drives with sails and the oar the light ship, art guides the fast cars, and love must be governed by art"
Ovid, Art of Loving. Gredos Classical Library, Spain, p. 27
The vision of art that unfolds in her work answers to a creative symbolism that nurtures on the roots of Western civilization as the mythological complexes around Gilgamesh, Orpheus, Dionysus, Apollo, romanticism and history of philosophy. Senses that his abstraction manages to convey in paintings like "The Cathedral", 1977-1984 and "The Power of Visibility" 1990. This visual language is in turn closely linked to its historical and existential context.
In 1955, coming from Germany, the young designer arrives by boat to the port of La Guaira, where her husband should have been waiting for her, who, arriving late, was about to lose her, because of this event, Luisa wanted to return. Venezuela was ruled by the strict military dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1953, a regime that lasted until January 23, 1958, when the dictator fled the country after a general strike.
Fortunately for her husband and the visual arts of the country (she was a young woman known in Germany and had already received her first award), the engineer Hans Joachim Richter arrived before the ship with his wife left, because they had gotten married that the same year.
After the happy reunion Luisa reveals, in her first impressions upon arrival in Venezuela, how the Caribbean light stripped the cuts of land of the newly built highway Caracas - La Guaira to turn them into a dazzling range of colors: inspired by this situation arises her works "Cuts of Land", which impacted and influenced the Venezuelan art, works that take her in 1966 to the Guggenheim Museum in New York in the exhibition "Emergent Decade."
She arrives in Caracas to the new neighborhood of Los Palos Grandes, she came from having lived through the insanity of the II World War, but she was able to study art in the postwar period. These vicissitudes made her grow between the intense atmosphere of internal reflections that sparked the habit of reflecting on herself, an aspect that is manifested in her abstract paintings and collages, as we are before an introspective aesthetic. As we read in the Biographical Dictionary of Visual Arts in Venezuela, in her training, the most important period was the one she spent between 1948 and 1955, with her teacher Willi Baumeister, one of the proponents of abstract art in Europe at the National Academy of Art in Stuttgart, Germany. (Biographical Dictionary of Visual Arts in Venezuela, Volume No. II, National Art Gallery, 2005, p. 1127).
If something could define the meaning of these works is that they strengthen the drives of existence, this vocation accompanied her from a young age, hence her teacher Willi Baumeister, when Luisa was studying art in Stuttgart, led her to participate in the lessons of existential philosophy of Max Bense that emphasized her dedication to art as love for reflection, he sensed the motivations that moved her. Her first school after World War II was the Waldorf School, founded by Rudolf Steiner, creator of anthroposophy. This view of pedagogy and his vision of the world were inspired by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, considering thinking as a recipient of ideas. For Steiner could be anthroposophists those who feel certain issues about the essence of man and the world as a necessity.
First of all, to Luisa Richter art takes the viewer to encounter with the essence of reality, of what remains beyond change. What the mystics and Hindu philosophers would call escaping the Maya illusion to get into the soul of the universe, a position that contrasts with the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, who said that the only thing that remains unchanged is change. The abstraction that the artist matures goes like a pendulum between these two positions, and this is reflected in the sensation of dynamic stillness that characterizes her abstraction. For her creation is to go beyond this constant evolution, to understand our being and the essence of what surrounds us, and based on these principles, she develops the existential nature of her plastic aesthetic.
By focusing on vital aspects of her compositions, as would be the tonalities in her paintings, which are manifested in the use of whites and grays, the colors and mixture of colors and the resulting atmospheres. This is one of the keys to get into her paintings and collages, as the artist researched, in museums worldwide, the works of masters like Leonardo Da Vinci, Goya, Ucello and El Greco among others, delving into the tonalities that characterized them and the intentionality in their composition. Thus, she create her own tones that are an indelible mark on every stage of her artistic language, where drawing occupies a central place and her line is characterized by her unpredictability, the game of thicknesses creators of drawings where the vacuum is present, in a constant tension between figuration and abstraction, as a deduction from the nature that sometimes comes close to the spirit of the Chinese ideograms.
To approach the concept of beauty of the artist who came from Besigheim, a small medieval town near Stuttgart, Germany, at age 27, one must have as a reference point the space where her life takes place, it is important the architecture of her home, as this accentuates the incandescent light in the tropics because of the height of the walls and large white plains, where space is trapped by the geometry and the walls are almost transparent due to the windows, that as tunnels of light, lead into the interior space an intricate vision of tropical foliage that becomes almost tactile to sight, as it can be appreciated in "The Instant Held in an Eco, 1987.
And among the possible paths to get into the intentionality of her work, one can find the creative trace and her thoughts in a series entitled "Texts", where she expresses philosophical meditations that reveal her aesthetic conception, in the Text, 1989, an old architectural plane of what could be her home, she expresses thoughts on these relationships. In this grid sheet with lines and rigid angles characteristic of architectural structures, the artist breaks through the hardness of red lines that sketch a character, surrounded by calligraphies that transform the sense of the architectural plane into a sensible one, where the words reveal clues on the tonalities present in many of her works:
"High walls in the house, and sometimes the light is bright white; forming a frame for me and my paintings. Located on a hill above the city, when the sun heats ardently. Colors are absorbed and there can be perceived a scale of dazzling whites. Mountain ridges are like clouds, the clouds are transformed into mountains and enters the house as a reflection in the mirror ... "
The luminous tonalities of paintings such as "In the Continuity", 1970-1976, express the effect of light on the physical reality that, at times, make clouds merge with the hills. The pictorial layers of her paintings symbolize the union of opposites and take the audience into spaces within the plane. Just as Mark Rothko, who through his paintings of the same color tones and gradations, manifests the echoes of the spirit, Luisa Richter reflects vibrations of the Caribbean that seduce her and are a joy in her life.
Pictorial depth converts each painting into multiple spaces and times; hence the tension becomes heartfelt and thoughtful in every stroke as it seeks to convey to the other one an inner dialogue that guides the action of creating.
And similarly, as in the rainforest one can see several layers of greens, in her paintings one can establish tonalities between abstract facts that express a dialectical tension between culture and nature.
This glow between tropics has caught the plastic language of several masters of Venezuelan art, as happened with Armando Reveron, where the light of the Caribbean upset his notion of landscape reflecting in his paintings this feeling that converts solar glare, reflecting in the sea in a personal mythology.
The titles of the paintings, drawings and collages of Luisa are puzzles and synchronicities that reveal the experiential context surrounding the creative process, as she takes very seriously the meaning of the word, and these may be key to approach the meaning of her works. Both in painting as in collages is also present a restructuring of reality, of making sensitive its complexity, and the endless interconnections that exist between each event in our lives, that has been assumed in physics and philosophy as the butterfly effect, a phrase inspired by classical reflections on how the flapping of a butterfly can affect the universe. The cinema has captured this sequence of effects through stories or spaces interconnected times that generate the actions of the plot which has been expressed from a visual and poetic perspective in films like "Babel," directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and a script by Guillermo Arriaga.
The 60's, and especially in 1968 was another important historical period for Luisa Richter. They are the years where utopia emerges of the hippie movement, with its mythic return to the Eden through the free love, the non violence, rediscovering the sacredness of nudity, and the expansion of Western spirituality that nurtured on Hinduism and Buddhism; a period where there was also a shift to initiation social rites, as revealed in the rock music festival in Woodstock, which took place in a farm in Bethel, New York, on August 15, 16 and 17 of 1969, and it was a cultural manifestation that expressed a revival of the Dionysian impulses in Western civilization to become myths of modernity.
In that decade, for a few years, airs of liberation and transformation were breathed. Raúl Leoni governs since 1964 in Venezuela, who will have to face an armed insurrection against his administration, the same one that later would demobilize Rafael Caldera by declaring a general amnesty. This is an election year for Venezuelans and the presidential election is won by Rafael Caldera, the Social Christian Party COPEI, for a few votes; from that date, a phrase from his opponent, the Democratic Action party, Gonzalo Barrios, is famous: "I prefer a dubious defeat to a dubious win.” And there is instituted in Caracas a unique experience in our cultural history, Neuman Design Institute, Luisa Richter is incorporated in the institute in 1969 working until 1987 as professor of analytical drawing and composition, an educational experience that had much to do with the delivery to the artist of the National Arts Award and the Award for Education in Caracas in 1981 and 1982, already, in 1967, she had received the National Prize for Drawing and Engraving, obtained at the XXVIII Official Hall.
Since 1963 the artist creates collages, which are increasingly taking relevance in her work, hence the importance of its definition: When I studied in the postwar period in 1946 I went to the Mertz Academy in Stuttgart, Germany, since all schools were closed due to the denazification process, our teacher saw that all had an enthusiasm for art and said, "Look at the floor, ground, land, soil next to the leaves of the autumn tree and now we rip our tram tickets and throw them onto the ground, what we see is a collage. That was the first notion I had of collage as a mixture of situations. And then in the seventies I had the idea of mixing works I had saved, gouaches, lithographs, serigraphs, and lines, and mixing casual encounters I gathered them, that is how collages were born, doing that filled me with happiness. I incorporated the photographs because they alone bored me, then got them into situations that occurred ... "
Luisa Richter, testimony, 2009
If anything is surprising in collages is its diversity of elements and technique, comprising lithographs, photographs, drawing cutouts and gouaches that are blended to create a visual discourse where multiplicity generates a dialectic that goes from chaos to order.
Plastics and symbolic elements within them are determined by the experiences of the creative moment by getting caught in kaleidoscopes of beauty.
A good example is the collage "Current History," 1985 circular format that attracts the significance of this geometry element as a totality, perfection and unity of opposites; inside compositional stripes convey visual depth to the plane. One of the visual centers is a petrified snail that transmits the idea of labyrinth; behind it is the face of Orpheus among sensitive geometric structures.
In symbolic terms, there are joined in the work, two mythological complexes of Greek classical tradition, the labyrinth of Minos, where there was the Minotaur, and the God of music, Orpheus, who with his harp was able to make rocks sing, which leads us to the musicality of the compositions of the artist, where the tonalities are melodic; this leads us to Luisa‘s passion, music, and the delight she felt when she played the piano. Two of his favorite composers are Beethoven and Mozart.
The artist associates this musicality around Orpheus, deity related to both Apollo and Dionysus, to rationality and irrationality, what Nietzsche would call "The Origin of Tragedy" springtime instincts. This piece affirms the unity of the visual arts to music, because they both generate an internal dialogue in whom confronts them; and this is one of the immediate sensory impacts of the music, the symbolism of this ancient deity is linked to the excitement generated by music.
In these collages there are geometric structures that represent the land and guide us through the myth, since Orpheus descended to the Homeric Hades trying to snatch from his destiny, among shadows that are dissolving into the nothingness, his beloved Eurydice, but fails to rescue her from the Hades and becomes a soul trapped into oblivion.
Each collage offers multiple readings that provide great aesthetic wealth and conceptual to the series, to confront the viewer the joy felt by the artist when recovering these pieces of experiences and stealing them from becoming. In this personal language, each one of them is the result of thoughts, sensations, feelings and synchronicities where there are elements that are almost a constant in different contexts as, to name one, the antique chairs, and that has its origin when she made lithographs.
One of those days Erich Münch asked her to wash some lithographic stones, but she liked the chairs so much that, instead of erasing them, she printed a series of lithographs that in the present time, this is reflected in her collages, as an own element.
Among the works with which she represented Venezuela at the Venice Biennial of 1978, she presented the series "Pages from my Diary," formed of sixty small-format collages, also were presented twelve large-format oil paintings entitled "Flat Space ", "Texts "about art and space planes.
Luisa Richter does not give much importance to the elements that make up her collages as she sees them as a unit; and from them, stand out ones where photography occupies in the composition a dominant place; they are black and white images, broken or complete, which near us to the cosmic empathy that moves her work; in several of them are female nudes in a garden or mounted on trees, and the positions that they assume have an intentionality that transcends the erotic, as shown in the photo collage in which a young naked woman hugs a tree, standing out her hands, an image that in turn is surrounded by other hands playing a string instrument in unimaginable positions, conveying a sense of how the hands, in union with the organism, are one way of humanizing reality.
That highlights how through our physicality and spirituality, humanity is able to create sublime dimensions such as music and visual arts.
In these collages with photographs stands out one in which there is a girl tied to a hose, giving a double meaning, the myths created by the Greeks where the Mother Goddess and the Gnostic cults of the Ophites, snake worshipers, who also idolized the snakes, and that in the contemporaneousness said image can be associated to the need for liberation of women, due to the oppressive tie caused by the hose.
"In the beginning Eurynome, the goddess of all things, rose naked from chaos, but found nothing solid to support the feet and therefore divided the sea from the sky and danced solitary on the waves. Danced to the south and the wind set in motion behind her seemed something new and apart with which to begin a work of creation. She turned around and took the wind from the north from which emerged the great serpent Ophion. Eurynome danced to warm herself, more and more excitedly, until Ophion felt lustful, coiled around the divine members and went away with the Goddess."
Robert Graves. The Greek Myths, Volume 1, Alianza Editorial, Spain, 1992, p.29
The photographs of the collages evoke an intention, and one of them a female body moves freely in the branches of a tree, between a background intervened with lithographs and pictorially creator of a heavenly vision, a spirit which is also reflected in her abstract paintings. In this way the artist creates, including paintings and collages, a universe of beauty full of meanings and experiences that she transmits through her art to the viewer.
"Painting was and still is, a scaffold made by myself, in which I could always hold myself and where I can still sway" Luisa Richter, Occurrences in my Journal.