JOURNAL 2013

Ireland: Tuesday, July 23, 2013

All artwork you see in this post was created by Anne Korff.

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This morning I took the first bus into Kinvara to meet with the artist and publisher Anne Korff. We met to review my book concept and to obtain her permission to cite some of the historical information in “The Book of the Burren”. I had purchased her book several years ago during my first trip to the Burren when I brought students for a study abroad trip to the Burren College of Art. The book was highly recommended by the late Michael Greene, the co-founded of the Burren College of Art along with his wife, Mary Hawkes-Greene.

Anne was waiting for me at the Kinvara bus stop to greet me. We introduced ourselves and she took me down to see the harbor, for I have never visited Kinvara before other that driving through it on the Galway bus. We walked to a nearby cafe and both ordered a cappuccino. We went through my book layout and she looked at my drawings and gave me some much appreciated feedback. We discussed what I needed to do in order to properly quote from her book. After that was accomplished we started talking about other things. Anne was very interested to hear that I had been in Cyprus in February and was interested in my experiences there. After we finished our cappuccinos she invited me to her house and studio in nearby Doorus.

Photographs of Anne Korff’s home in Doorus.

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Anne Korff is known through her work with Tir Eolas (knowledge of the land) a publishing company she founded in 1987. Her illustrations of the archaeology of the Burren and its history led to the publication of a series of guides and maps – many that I own. She also worked in cooperation with several authors to create and produce The Book of the Burren, which I also own. She was born and raised in the north of Germany and attended university in Berlin. She came to live in the west of Ireland in the 1980’s.

We spent most of our visit in her studio looking at, and talking about her artwork. Most, if not all, of the artwork shown in this post was hung in her exhibition “Orient / Occident” in the Arts Corridor of Galway University Hospital in 2012. This is her Artist Statement for “Orient / Occident”:

I began this series of paintings in 2008 after traveling to Morocco in previous years. Having been mostly a landscape painter, my first encounters with Islamic architecture, art and culture led to a radical change in my work. Two aspects struck me in particular: the first being the swamping of traditional life-styles and architecture by all the trappings of a Western consumer society; an all pervasive clash of two very different cultures; the second, the abstract nature of Islamic and Moorish decoration and its meditative qualities.These two things had a profound effect on me and my response was to produce abstract paintings, using shapes and colours in arrangements totally at variance with everything I had done before.

Visits to Tunisia, Andalusia and recently to southeast Turkey, have deepened my interest in Islamic design, and witnessing again the pressure of Western societies on the lifestyles of North African and Middle Eastern people fed directly into this vein of work. Producing abstract paintings has been truly liberating, allowing me to incorporate and question aspects of Christianity, consumerism and capitalism, with motifs and colours borrowed directly from Islamic and Moorish decoration and buildings.

As these journeys in the real world have fueled my work, the resultant paintings have become an authentic expression of my ongoing inner journey. I constantly grapple with the contradictions produced when East meets West where two radically different cultures are overlaid, becoming fragmented and sometimes distorted.

During last year, my paintings became more and more based on elements and symbols as shown in prehistoric art, produced by people in the Middle East and Western Europe. I am particularly intrigued by overlap and similarities shown in some Celtic and Islamic art which suggests roots in a common ancient origin

My paintings are a celebration of the beauty of Islamic art as seen  by a “Westerner”. I hope to encourage the viewer to embrace cultural diversity and the opening of dialogue that might help build bridges between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

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I’m including her work on my blog because I feel more people should see her work. In her artist statement she says,

“I hope to encourage the viewer to embrace cultural diversity and the opening of dialogue that might help build bridges between the Christian and Islamic worlds.”

That is my wish, as well. I know many people who are ready to build such bridges and I believe that Joseph Campbell is correct when he states that it is up to the artists and poets to lead the way. It is very obvious that politicians will not. Anne told me that she is not sure there are people who are ready for the message within her art. I encouraged her that there are.

I posted a few of the photographs I took of her paintings on my Facebook page and asked my FB friends to say something about her work. The following are only a few of the comments her work received:

“Your work is seen by my soul as instruction. Powerful manifested in chills and affirmation.”

“These are absolutely beautiful and speak peacefully to my soul. The circle – never ending cycle; simple yet complex. Colors of peace and energy, healing, and soothing. Extraordinary!”

“I feel an energy and spirituality in her work.”

More photographs of Anne’s work that are stored in her studio

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Detail from the painting immediately above

Detail from the painting immediately above

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