Artist and all-around lovely human, Rita Maria Linke has been a florist and a teacher. But for the last eight-plus years, she’s been enjoying her time creating artwork that explores the essence of beautiful natural materials, which she finds on strolls near her home in the Black Forest in Germany.
In this interview, Rita tells us what it was like studying again in her sixties, why she’s drawn to natural materials, like beeswax and pine needles, and how her artwork is essentially an extension of her happiest childhood memories.
Studying art later in life
K+C — Rita! Thank you for talking to me about your work. I must confess that I’ve always wanted to talk to you more about it! I know from previous conversations with you that you started your art career later in life. Can you tell me about the history behind that decision?
In addition to my professional activities, I have always painted and drawn, including many years at a painting seminar in Stuttgart. In my profession as a master florist and teacher, design and drawing were of central importance. Increasingly, I became interested in three-dimensional work, which eventually led to the study of sculpture at the EMK.
I prefer not to describe it as an “art career”; it is rather a continuation of my most important childhood experiences in another form. As a child, I was preferably out in untamed nature, and I occupied myself with the things I found there.
K+C — You studied at the Edith-Maryon Kunstschule (Edith-Maryon Art School) in Freiburg, Germany between 2005-2012. At first, you balanced this part-time between your work as a vocational school teacher before going full-time. What was it like being a student again and balancing this with work?
Of course, it was a lot of work, but a reduced teaching load meant that I could combine my studies with my job relatively well. I also did the last three years of my studies as a full-time student and did not have to balance my time between my work and my studies. In addition, I found it very interesting to be in a completely different role as a student again, and the cooperation with the (predominantly young) students was a great enrichment for me.
K+C — What references inspired you during this time?
Visits to museums, then the study of various art movements and artists (e.g., Joseph Beuys, Andy Goldsworthy, Wolfgang Laib, David Nash …), and the examination of different materials, substances, and techniques. A significant stimulus was the subject of Art Contemplation with Johannes Ruchti.
K+C — What materials were you drawn to during your time as a student? And has that changed?
Certain materials such as various woods, stones, metals, or clay, and plaster were mandatory [to work with] in the individual course modules. Thus one had a good comparison between the materials and the corresponding processing possibilities.
After large wood works and concrete casts, with which I had a hard time physically, I finally turned to lighter materials such as paper, felt, wire, pine needles, beeswax. With these, larger installations are also possible. Later came other plant materials such as flowers, pollen, and seeds or fruit stalks.
K+C — What is it about natural materials that inspires your work?
Natural materials or raw materials appeal to me very much because they have not yet experienced manufacturing processes by humans. Although I sometimes use paper, wire, thread, these materials also have a natural basis.
In addition, it is also the special kind of resonating relationship that — starting from finding and collecting to the finished work — is of great significance for the work.
And finally, there is this aspect of transience and finitude; ephemera is always changing.
Natural materials or raw materials appeal to me very much because they have not yet experienced manufacturing processes by humans.
Being mindful in the process
K+C — You split your time between a small town outside of Freiburg am Breisgau, Germany, and the Black Forest, also in Germany. How do both of these locations influence the conceptual development or physical production of your work?
In the Black Forest, I can roam the countryside, [and] I find peace and a great expanse on the heights. In addition, there are many found objects, even small things, and seemingly inconspicuous. My works there are rather small in size.
And in the Rhine Valley, I have my large studio with everything I need for larger works. My studio is, for me, a quiet inner area into which little noise from the outside penetrates, and this offers me and the work the necessary space and framework.
K+C — You have said before that there is a mindful nature to your work. I definitely believe that from the incredible detail of it, but does the mindfulness start from the time you collect materials, or is it more of an in-studio process while you’re working with them?
When collecting, my senses are already alert. Some of the smaller materials also “fly” to me, especially the filigree things, which need mindfulness and care when collecting and processing anyway. Quiet and concentration and a lot of time are essential when working in the studio.
K+C — Can you tell us about how you collect your materials and how that act ultimately influences physical production?
The materials speak to me — their condition, the colorfulness, form, and movement or the structure — and then often, the type of processing is already set.
K+C — Is there anything that has surprised you about the materials or working with them?
Actually, I was and am not very patient, but working with these materials requires quite a bit of patience. What is also surprising for me is that the works are less fleeting and ephemeral than I thought.
The materials speak to me — their condition, the colorfulness, form, and movement or the structure
K+C — Some artists want viewers to walk away from their artwork with a specific impression or set of thoughts. Do you hope people who see your work take something specific from it, or do you like to leave that open to interpretation?
That is a difficult question. It would be gratifying if my works could convey an idea of how fragile our natural environment really is.
K+C — Similarly, is the act of viewing your work meant to be an experience of the senses?
Some of my works have other properties, in addition to their visually perceptible size, shape, color intensity, or luminosity. For example, installations made of beeswax or pine needles each have their own scent. Then there are works with special surface[s] that [onlookers] can feel, and objects with filament suspension move with the slightest breath of air. Perhaps one could say: sensual perceptions are already like the material, or they arise (often unintentionally) from the nature of the work.