Utaellamarie Peter lives in Germany. For many years, she worked as a chemical engineer. About 10 years ago the paintbrush came along, she held on to it, and never let go. Since then painting is Uta’s new ‘profession’.
” I started as a self-taught painter, but since then I have gone through various trainings and I am still learning.
There are so many themes, colors, and shapes that can be combined to create something new and surprising. Mostly I deal with the animal world, to which we humans belong too, although we like to suppress that. What concerns me very much is how we, as the so-called ‘crown of creation’, deal with this very creation and I hope that ours will find an appropriate place before everything is destroyed.
In my mostly figurative painting, I try to establish a connection with our fellow creatures and represent this proximity with more or less seriousness. I like to play with unusual encounters and especially enjoy funny elements because without humor everything is nothing. ”
Hello Utaellamarie! You say you’ve started as a self-taught painter. Tell me more about your beginnings, how did it all start for you in the world of art?
Utaellamarie: My husband and I bought an old inn in a small village in 1999, moved in immediately, and renovated the dilapidated house on our own. It was like an adventure camp that then dragged on for some years. There was a lot of work and a lot of dirt. And to gain some distance and to escape all the dust at least temporarily, I started at some point to paint fresh colors on canvases. Perhaps I was thinking along the way about all the walls that needed to be covered – it was and is a big house! Today, fortunately, the big house also offers me space for my studio.
What medium is your favorite to work with?
Utaellamarie: I started with acrylic paints, they are relatively easy to handle and you do not need solvents. And I still like to work with acrylics, but in the meantime, oil paints have been added. You can spread them so wonderfully, as it is not possible with the fast-drying acrylic paints.
In addition, I occasionally use charcoal, ink, pencil, and watercolor. Partly in preparation for paintings, partly as independent elaborations.
From time to time I also create sculptures from clay, which I work directly with my hands with a few tools. A wonderful feeling when something new develops from the fingers.
And I learn in continuous training always new techniques (eg, pastel, etching), which I can incorporate into my further work.
What is unique about your technique? What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Utaellamarie: I don’t know if there is anything unique about my technique. I work with the material as it should be used. Of course, to a certain extent, you can go different ways, which I also like to do. Depending on what is to arise, I work, for example, in the paintings in acrylic or oil with sketches, underpainting, several layers of glaze, or even directly (all prima) on the canvas.
The biggest challenge, which I am sure every artist has to face, again and again, is to realize your idea the way you imagined it – to choose the right material, to make the colors shine where they should, to create tension in the composition, and so on. The whole process is challenging. There can always be new problems that need to be fixed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. And you need patience. Patience to let things rest – often, after a certain amount of time, solutions find themselves. And sometimes the solution is simply to start over.
Perhaps patience is actually my greatest challenge.
Tell me more about the humor aspect of your art. Does it come to you while working on a piece spontaneously, or is it planned?
Utaellamarie: Humor generally plays a big role in my life. And I love to incorporate witty ideas, sometimes also word jokes, into my works via the picture titles. How and when this occurs to me in each case varies. Sometimes I already start with such an idea, sometimes it develops only in the course of the work.
The painting ‘John, Paul, George and Rhino’ was conceived in this way from the beginning: Abbey Road is crossed in a different way – by four rhinos.
With another picture, the joke came quite last. It is the background image of my profile photo. You can see the impressive head of a shoebill. In the lower right, only partially visible in the photo is a revolver pointed at the viewer. The title of the picture is ‘Hey Joe’. The following ‘….where you go with that gun in your hand’ is sure to immediately come to the mind of any savvy connoisseur.
You mostly work on the animal world and human role in this world. What inspired this topic?
Utaellamarie: There are so many species other than humans in this world. Such a rich variety of shapes, colors, and characters that nature has created. We are only a very small and actually quite inconspicuous part of it and yet we take up so much space that there is soon no more room for the rest. In the end, we are sawing off our own branch on which we are sitting.
As a child, I read a lot, many fairy tales and fables, in which animals play their own role and are also often linked to human character traits. I’m convinced that this connection grounds us and makes us rethink our role in the world.
And it outrages and shocks me with what ignorance and violence we torturously exploit animals for our own benefit – as if nature had created them with all their beauty, with all their abilities just for us. Yes, I know, lions also eat antelopes, but they don’t keep antelopes in factory farms and don’t run slaughterhouses. And they don’t throw 90% of the antelope in the garbage after they’ve eaten the steak.
In reflecting back to the start of your artistic endeavor, what is the most useful advice you ever received?
Utaellamarie: Keep going!
Do you have a real-life situation that inspired your artwork?
Utaellamarie: During the time I started painting, my mother died. I painted a portrait from a photo – that helped me to process this loss.
What are some of the stories behind your work?
Utaellamarie: It is often visual impressions from photos – frequently animal photos, which I associate with situations and behavior.
So I saw an ostrich head – stretched high with this arrogant look from a human point of view – just from above. And a prima ballerina comes to mind, who sometimes strikes poses in her dance that are crowned by such a look. That’s how ‘Prima, Ballerina’ came about.
Or ‘Donna Carmen.’ It began with the wonderfully colorful and very impressive head of a wool-headed vulture, which upon closer inspection I found fitting for a classical portrait of an 18th century Spanish countess.
In general, birds with their special look due to the position of their eyes are very fascinating and predestined for a fabulous realization.
What is the most recent piece you’ve enjoyed working on the most?
Utaellamarie: This was ‘Sudan’ that I painted in late 2020. Sudan was the last northern white rhino male on the planet, dying in 2018. They are now trying to impregnate the last two remaining females with his frozen semen to preserve the species. A tragedy.
Who are a few artists/people that really inspire you right now, and why?
Utaellamarie: There are so many impressive artists and I always learn about ‘new’ artists in my art history education who impress me.
- I think Otto Dix and George Grosz are great because they expressed their political convictions so impressively honestly and truthfully.
- Edward Hopper, I find his art great because he could evoke deep and oppressive feelings with a certain lightness.
- the Impressionists are great because they brought so much color, light, and beauty into the paintings.
- Goya is great because he painted so early in a special, effective, and also modern way.
- Martin Kippenberger is great because he had such incredibly creative and whimsical ideas.
- Banksy is great because he represents clear socio-political positions.
- And, and, and ….
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Utaellamarie: I don’t have a big plan. New ideas are always developing in my head. And I continue to deal with how we humans, including myself of course, deal with nature. I want to implement these thoughts more and more in my work and that is really challenging.
And I hope, as we all do, for an end of Corona and the then newly won freedom in all matters.
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