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"
Karin and her colleagues of Solumsmoen
ground the canvas in preparation.
The canvas is ready for the
participants to arrive.
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
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.
"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."