Dr. Sophia Sotke

About the one world painting

The One World Painting is exceptional in the oeuvre of Ulrike Arnold, who has traveled to remote places on all continents, always painting in situ, creating colors from rocks, earth and sand that capture the essence of these places. In this painting, however, she has assembled earth colors from Chile and from Iceland, has joined Australian red pigment with green pigment from Armenia, black lava from Arizona with Senegalese red, white from the Easter Islands, yellow from Egypt, and many more.

To her, this canvas is a dialogue not only of colors, but of the continents, their countries, their histories and their peoples. During these unsettling times of war, of political polarization and division, Arnold makes a statement of peace, community and equality. Bringing our perspectives back to the earth of our planet, she reminds us that we live together in oneworld. It is therefore only logical for the One World Painting to be shaped like an exclamation mark: A large rectangular canvas, 6.49 meters long and 1.83 meters wide, combined with a circular earth painting measuring 1.85 meters in diameter. The canvases are painted on both sides and tobe hung as a vertical ensemble in a wide and open gallery of at least 12 to 13 meters height. To the artist, the ideal final place for the One World Painting would be the UN headquarters in NewYork City, or UN offices in Geneva, where it could serve as an artistic reminder to solve the global problems of our planet. Before, the painting should be exhibited once on every continent.

Arnold created the painting in Utah, where she works for several months every year, between 2017 and 2019. Its creation is documented in the award- winning documentary Dialogue Earth by Hank Levine. In this film about Arnold’s life and work, we can see it as her intuitive artistic response to the exploitation of our natural environment.Arnold’s initial experience happened in 1971, when she first visited the world-famous caves ofLascaux in France. To her, the 17.000 years old cave paintings seemed like the origin of creativity, of human expression through art. In 1980, as a student of Duesseldorf art academy, she traveled to the ochre quarries in Roussillon, France, collecting and creating her own pigment ranging from yellow to orange and red.

For 43 years, Arnold has now been painting with earth, stone and sand on all continents, all over this world. Exploring remote regions, she walks alone assembling her material, getting in touch with her surroundings, the climate, weather, flora, fauna, and geology of each place. After hammering the collected material into powder and mixing it with a binder onsite, the artist moves around a canvas laid horizontally on the floor, working in broad, sweeping gestures, often with her bare hands. Similar to the method of Action Painting by Jackson Pollock, Arnold celebrates the process of painting itself, like a dance around the canvas as her portable stage. Her paintings form rhythmic abstractions extracted from the landscape, capturing the artist’s emotional impressions of a place’s particular energy. As “art forms that ... use the actual land as a medium”, her works are closely linked to the definition of Earth Art as given by Robert Smithson. Arnold, however, also reaches for a world beyond the land she stands on.

Since 2003, after a chance encounter with a meteor researcher, she has been painting with meteorite dust. This material, a witness to the origin of our planet in the solar system, has been included in The One World Painting, combined with earths from all continents. As a “color essence of the world”, this painting pays homage our planet and its place within the cosmos, reflecting its beauty and diversity, making aware of its fragility.


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