Painting improvisation rotating circle at river Simoa

Sigdal, Norway, 14 October 2008


Natural elements for dividing up
in four groups.
Paints for "air", "water", "earth"
and "fire".
Karin and her colleagues of Solumsmoen
ground the canvas in preparation.
The canvas is ready for the
participants to arrive.
The circle of painters starts moving.


As part of the conference "How to Cope in a Changing World? - Environment, Culture and Health in Transition", which took place in Sigdal and Asker, Norway, from 11 to 14 October 2008 and was organized by the NaCuHeal (Nature-Culture-Health), Jan van Boeckel organized a improvisation painting workshop. Moving from one conference venue to the next, the participants joined in a surprise event on a Sunday late afternoon at the river Simoa, adjacent to  Solumsmoen Helse og Velvære along the river Simoa.
They gathered in a circle on the river bank, amidst the beautiful autumn colors and the setting sun. Every conference participant was divided in a group: "air", "water", "earth" and "fire". Each person got a paper coffee cup with a certain mix of colour in it. For example: the members of "water" get different hues of blue. They also each get one paint brush. Some a bigger brush, some a smaller. Then they are all asked to form a big human circle, at random, so somebody of "earth" might be standing adjacent to a "water" person, and she next to an "air" person etc. On the river side, a big piece of canvas was put on a board.

See short film impression on You Tube


 Jan told the group that during the whole event, and the way the idea was put together, improvisation was important: to dare to create and to make mistakes. Or rather to see "mistakes" as new openings to continue in unxpected ways.  Therefore it seemed appropriate to have music on of Keith Jarrett’s totally improvised Köln Concert from 1975 (see box below). Jan started the process by very roughly sketching the contours of river, trees, sky and earth. Now the circle of people slowly started to move in a circular way; such that every participant would stand for a few seconds in front of the canvas and make just a simple brush move, and then slowly move on to make place for the next person. Anybody could paint anywhere on the painting, but the only request was that "water" group people focused on "water" elements, "air" people on air elements, etc. The "fire" group's task was to add the overall excitement, imagination, sparkle, light, life force in the painting. And so we slowly rotated, everybody got a turn to paint two, three, maybe four times on the painting, while they listened to the music and contemplated being at the river. The painting was finished when the music was finished.
Keith Jarrett

"At the Köln concert we had the wrong piano rented. We tried to get the right piano, but they did not have the truck anymore and the truck wasn’t big enough to carry the other piano. (…)


I really did not like it. I had not slept for two days; I had bad Italian food in a restaurant. And we went to probably tell the engineers that they could leave. Because just everything was wrong – except they sold it out! We thought we should send the engineers home and then at the last minute: No, it’s OK, they are here already, they’re set up. We just have a recording for ourselves. You always want to make it as good as it can be, but when you have problems you cannot do anything about, one after the other, you start actually forgetting what you are doing, till it’s time, and that is one of the secrets of improvisation."

See source of quote in interview on YouTube


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