In Search of Truth
Interview with artist Uwe Appold, Germany Uwe Appold
Uwe Appold is a German painter and sculptor. His career includes numerous exhibitions in Germany, Monaco, Poland, Estonia, France, Austria, Greece, China, and Belgium. He has received numerous prizes and many of his works are in public ownership. His largest work is 'Der blaue Bogen' that spans 28 x 12 x 34 m and hangs in the DekaBank in Frankfurt.
What are you working on at the moment?
- At the moment I have an exhibition at Gallery Emmaus in Ringsted with variations on Saint Paul. I have spent quite some time in Greece writing and illustrating a book about the Odyssey cycle. This resulted in 24 Odyssey pictures on linen fabric. When I was there I was inspired by other Greek locations to work on Saint Paul's theology. The finished works are on exhibition in Denmark.
Greek mythology and Christianity, what do they have to do with each other?
- In Greece we find the roots of western man. Europe has been built on the basis of Greek philosophy and Christianity. They are the cradles of Europe. My art seeks back to this foundation in search of answers to our present and future presence in society.
- I became acutely aware of these links, when I was teaching abstract painting at the National Academy in Hangzhou, China in 1998. The Chinese students kept asking me: Who is Christ? In my efforts to answer them, I suddenly realised that our European oratorios, our literature, our art was made in this context. From this time on my artistic approach is towards the fundamental western themes such as: Prometheus, Percival, Golgotha, Elias, Apocalypse and others. Our European values of equality, freedom, brotherhood, humanity, hope, truth, and trinity are vital, not only for artists, but for us as Europeans. I want to pass on this European inheritance.
I sometimes get the impression that artists whose works reveal their religious stand can have a difficult time. Have you experienced this?
- Firstly, there are many artists in Germany, so there is perhaps room for more diversity than in smaller countries. And don't forget that we have the German artist Joseph Beuys (1921 -1986), who had many followers. But it is true that in the 1980's one could be ridiculed, but today I have a name for myself and people know what I represent. There are segments on the art scene that won't deal with Christian themes, but I don't feel it much today. Maybe it is more a European issue.
Germany seems to be in the process of actively dealing with the World War II, Nazism, and Hitler in literature, music, and films. One aspect that is also brought forth is that the
Germans not only were perpetrators, but also victims, for instance in Dresden where the bombings were aimed at civilians. Do you have any comments to this?
- Everyone says Dresden and Hamburg are Gomorra. There were war crimes on both sides. But we must never forget that Germans killed all men in the Greek village Kalavrita in 1943, bombed civilians in Rotterdam and so on. Dresden and Hamburg had not been bombed, if it hadn't been for German invasions. In 1944-45 Germany was at war with 40 countries! It is insane. Germany must face up to its responsibility. We should rather ask, how it could happen.
You were born in 1942 and your father died the same year in the island Spitzbergen. What influence has German history played in your life and art?
- Nobody could answer my questions satisfactorily about how the Second World War came about. I first found the answer in the church where a young vicar was asking the same questions as I. Together we sought and found the answers. There are truths that we cannot realize, only bits are revealed. We can't comprehend the creation, nor understand Golgotha where Jesus on the cross shouts: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" We are not destined to understand everything or be responsible for our forefather's deeds. But we are responsible for our own sphere. A World War II must never happen again. This is also my responsibility. In this sense Christianity gives me existential answers.
- Poet Nelly Sachs has dealt with these same questions and has in the form of dialogic movements reached a hope for the future. I just finished painting seven diptychens about some of her poems. I didn't make paintings of holocaust, but by using elements such as earth and ashes from the concentration camp Neuengamme in my art, I express the horrors of holocaust. It has been a difficult process, but I also find hope for the human future.
Do you have any comments on the "Ordnung muss sein" approach to life that many associate with Germans and Germany?
- This philosophy of life stems from Frederic the Great and is associated with a framework that ensures order. I believe this approach with elements such as punctuality and reliability is disappearing in Germany.
I find the European approach that each country and each people may keep their own identity important. We must protect this, so that the French don't have to be like the Swedes and vice versa. Just think of French philosophy, Polish Chopin, Italian renaissance, Czeck Kafka,… Of course we need some kind of framework to ensure this diversity. This is the responsibility of EU in Brussels today. I sincerely hope that EU protects European diversity, as diversity is an important part of Europe's identity.