Experiences gained in the small scale of GOLDSMITHING – Implosion – are beneficial for the large scale of painting.
Experiences gained in the large scale of PAINTING – Explosion – are beneficial for the small scale of goldsmithing.
Like a lemniscate the flow of creative energy is endless.
Sylvia Witzenmann was born in Munich, Germany in 1941 and was raised in Pforzheim. She received her MBA at Fontainebleau in 1968 and then returned to Germany to work in the industry as a public relations executive.
In the early 1970s she realized that the corporate world was not her life’s path, and she then made a pact with herself to become an artist. Thus Witzenmann enrolled in the Pforzheim “Fachhochschule fuer Gestaltung “ as an art student studying a variety of disciplines including painting, drawing, printing, enameling, batiking and sculpting.
In 1974 Witzenmann came to New York where she immediately began to study and later teach in enameling and classical goldsmithing classes taught by Robert Kulicke and Jean Reist Stark who were also adept in the visual arts. It was then that she found her first craft – goldsmithing.
Yet she was also unwittingly preparing for her career as a painter, for the techniques she learned in her training as a goldsmith would later be adjusted to a different medium and integrated into her painting process. This union adheres directly to Witzenmann’s philosophy:
She calls herself an “artist – craftswoman”, one who first masters her medium, and then introduces artistic creativity alongside technique.
Witzenmann’s quest for strict control over her paintings stems directly from the precision and attentiveness required of a goldsmith.
She spent many years training her hands and her eyes, developing repousse, granulation and enameling techniques and learning the sculptural approach to goldsmithing in Italy with Bruna Martinazzi. To learn her trade she spent 20 years in a shared atelier with other jewelers on 47th street, the Diamond district in New York City.
Witzenmann persues the classical ideal of a goldsmith to be able to combine all these technics in a piece of Jewelry. Preferred metals are thereby Gold (all kinds of alloys) Platinum, White Gold and Silver. Precious stones in all forms and cuts, as well as pave diamonds and pave colored stones are being integrated in a design that shows the collaboration between Designer and Client to illuminate the wearer’s personality.
As an artist her major aim is to achieve a beautiful and elegant solution. A jewel should pay tribute to the character of the stone and reflect the harmonious lines of the human body.
The influence of all this techniques can be found in many of her large scale paintings, where the paint is built up on the canvas with skillful layers of impasto in order to create a sense of mass and depict the natural and supernatural world. She express both the human experience and nature within her art.
During a summer in East Hampton, New York , Witzenmann was inspired by the seascapes and she began making outdoor sketches of the harbor, boats and most importantly light on the water. The artist soon began to take her materials indoors, painting Hamptons day scenes in her studio at night. This deliberate process emerged from her exploration of memory and her desire to convey that the nature of an impression remains internal for some time before being manifested physically.
These images are quite different from her day-scapes: the colors are darker and more mysterious, the marks of the paintbrush are impastoed and furious. She is not concerned with any likeness to reality but with conveying a particular mood the landscape evokes. She develops her style into abstract landscapes with clear indications of foregrounds, backgrounds and multiple horizon lines. The viewer may recognize natural forms, like bodies of water, mountains, caverns or sky. Yet it is also apparent that these landscapes depict inner realms that W. has discovered within herself or in myth.
There are several commemorative paintings in this style to lives lost: The fateful TWA Flight 800 which crashed over the Long Island sound 1996 and more recently her grand scale Tryptich TWO SUNS WEEPING in commemoration of the events of 911 in 2010.
Despite her experiences with the landscape Witzenmann began depicting the human figure to explore the human form. Similar to her abstract works, theses canvases are gestural and expressive. A certain otherworldliness in her figures are attributable to the artist’s practice of not basing her forms on models or photographs. As in all of her work coloration is the starting point from which the figure or other forms emerge.
But the common threat that runs through all of Witzenmann’s figurative painting is respect for humanity and compassion like in the painting KIDNAPPED or ABU GHRAIB and for instance in the painting ITS THE MAPS MAN that humanity is touched by issues of war and peace.
Witzenmann’s art therefore explores many technical, philosophical and spiritual possibilities and her body of work bears the distinct marks of her upbringing in Germany, as she frequently reveals the inspiration of German landscape, as well as the influence of the German Romantic and Expressionist traditions. Her distinct gestural style however is influenced by the American abstract legacy. Her work on paper form includes large scale linoleum prints and the incorporation of pigments from limestone sites around the world.
Witzenmann’s background as a goldsmith, her travels around the world, and her interest in science, politics and culture also leave their marks on her practice. Most of all however, it is her intention to capture the human experience and awareness of the present time that gives her works their meaning.