Annette Schwindt about creativity – interview by Pål H. Christiansen
Pål: The statement in the heading is what Annette Schwindt has posted at her Myspace beside a picture of herself. Every time I visit her space I read it and start thinking about it. So I sent her a mail and asked her to explain.
Nette: This refers to the recipients of art as well as to myself. I am a self-educated artist and all I do emerges intuitively from an inner need to live creativity. No matter if it is painting, writing or taking pictures.
When I started to post my paintings on the web I got several private messages saying “I’d love to comment but I don’t know about these things and don’t want to say something silly”. But to me there is no silly thing you can say as long as it is honest. All I’d like to know is what art makes people FEEL.
For example in the painting “Expecting” some people see a snake, others see a woman with a baby in the cradle or a dancer and to me it was a pregnant woman. But my perspective is not the only truth.
I don’t want a professor’s thesis but to exchange impressions and learn how other people look at things From my experience too much theoretical background can spoil an artwork.
Like it happened with my story “The House” which has been written after a concrete experience at a very concrete house and in my intention it was a vampire story. One of my friends who is a university teacher for literature interpretation explained to me about this house being a metaphor for the uterus and crushed the story to symbols and whatever. I was completely stunned about what she thought I had intended and composed there. I prefer an intuitive to an intellectual reaction.
Pål: You have worked both as journalist and PR-agent, activities that deal with communication. Being creative through your other writing, your painting and photographing is also about communication, isn’t it? What is the difference?
Nette: Yes, both is about communication. But working as a (serious) journalist or a public relations consultant demands to see things with a professional distance, which means from the OUTSIDE. You have to analyse, criticise and structure things in order to write about them. This is something that follows certain rules and mechanisms. Something that happens in your head and something you do with a specific target-group in mind.
Producing art is something completely different. As I said above, for me art is feeling. As an artist I see things from the INSIDE. I don’t start making an artwork with thoughts about what effect it will have on which people. It’s something I do first of all for myself, a very personal inner need to be creative. I could live without journalism or pr but not without art.
Pål: When did you discover this inner need to be creative? And how did you understand that this was something you couldn’t live without?
Nette: I suppose, this is something I have been born with. I have been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember and always had a lot of fantasy. While doing family research, I found some very interesting relations between the family name and the typical characteristics of a Schwindt, including strong intuition and creativity. So this seems to be something genetic.
Finding out that I cannot live without it was a hard and sad experience. I started up pr-work for a sportsman and then for the whole national organisation. I gave everything and had great success with what I did. Then shortly before Athens 2004 I had severe cardiac arrhythmia and almost died. Instead of taking things slow afterwards and staying at the hospital, I insisted on going home in order to continue my work. But in December 2005 I realised that it couldn’t go on like that. I sat down and thought about what had gone wrong and one of my best friends said: “When was the last time you have done something for yourself? Where has the creative Nette gone? I don’t recognize you.”
I was shocked but saw that she was right. I had invested all my power only for others. That was not me! So I stopped working for those people who just drained me and started ME-time. It began with trying acrylic painting and the second painting I made was sold before it was even dry. I hadn’t intended to paint for others. It just happened. And I found out that painting “refills my batteries”, so I went on with it. I started writing glosses again, drawing portraits and taking other photos than for work. And ever since life is getting better every day.
Pål: I often think that the best thing with being a writer is that in my world of writing I am the King, I have the power to decide everything and I don’t need to compromise with the demands from the outer world. Do you recognise this feeling?
Nette: No, that’s not what I feel when I’m writing. For me, any kind of producing art is an urgent need, almost physical, like having to eat or drink. I’m not reflecting what I do while I do it. It just flows out of me and sends my brain on holiday. Like a meditation you could say. And when I have finished it is like waking up.
Another reason why I don’t recognise the feeling might be the fact that I don’t invent stories. All my texts come from true stories, things I have been told or experienced myself. So there are no rational decisions to take in there. Just an organic floating of words.
Sometimes it even feels like I am just the medium, not the actor. My story “The Giant” is the most extreme example for this. I just couldn’t sleep that night because I felt our friend Volker, who had just passed away, standing beside me, urging me to write his words down. So I followed and literally “gave birth” to this text that ever since hasn’t only helped us to deal with his death but also a lot of mourning people around the world.
Pål: I have read this story and some other shorter texts you have written. I have also seen your photographs and paintings on your myspace and website. But I know you have been writing on several book projects, too. Can you tell us a little about this?
Nette: Oh dear! I knew you would get back to this subject. Yes, I have been writing some other texts that were (are?) supposed to become books one day. I’m used to write short texts and find it hard to extend my writing. My creativity just cannot be packed in regular, fixed work time which would be necessary to finish such a big text. I have tried but the results were not good.
There is one main project in my head that I have been working on again and again over the past 15 years and still no one else has written anything alike. It is a story about three people and the way their lifes get changed after one of them becomes disabled by an accident. I started to write about this after the accident of a friend but haven’t found the right turning point for the story yet. (Update: There is a short story about it now.)
The other text I have started is totally different. It’s a very funny one about the absurd situations all around me. Like the mess you have with all those hotlines or with electricity failures, friends that call you in the middle of the night because someone broke their heart. In the end you think you need a psychiatrist while in fact it is the other people flooding you with their problems.
Pål: What kind of creative projects are you engaged in at the moment, and do you have some ideas or new approaches or even new genres that you want to try out in the future?
Nette: My main project at the moment is not a creative one but still it seems to have an impact on my art: it’s family research. I think I’ll write something about it some time.
Then I made some new portrait photos and experimented with rust and patina in acrylic painting.
Yes, I have an idea for an art-project but will have to wait for better weather to start it. I want to take out some of my paintings and photograph them with people in the street or in unexpected places. I’ll also go on with my circle-paintings where I press two canvasses together to get a kind of structured twin-painting. At the moment I’m trying to figure out how I can use the patina-technique in this. Perhaps I’ll also get back to making sculptures from wire and paper-maché and use the patina and rust there. And of course it would be great to have my first exhibition somewhere!
As for the writing: I never know what comes next. This happens very spontaneously.
Pål: If you were forced to choose between your creative activities and had to concentrate on one of them… Which of them would that be: writing, painting or photographing?
Nette: I think I couldn’t choose because I cannot say which one is the most important. They complete each other. But I think language is the most essential for me, so if I really had to choose it would probably be writing. You can also paint or show pictures with words.
When I see a photo or painting that I don’t like I don’t have the urge to change it. But when I hear or see someone using language the wrong way, it upsets me and I just have to correct it (at least in my head). My husband is already laughing when we watch football matches or some specific adds on TV where he knows I will get upset because they use wrong language.
So, yes… it would probably be writing.
Pål: Do you have a goal or ambition with creating apart from satisfying your inner need to live creatively? Is it important to be visible and acknowledged through your art?
Nette: Of course it feels good to get positive feedback for what you do. I wouldn’t put my artwork online if I didn’t care about people’s reactions. But I don’t think there is a concrete goal like becoming rich and famous. I really don’t care about that. As I said, producing art is first of all something I do for myself. The acknowledgement from others is more a kind of side-effect for me. A side-effect that can lead to an exchange and inspire me for new things. And putting things online is also a new artwork on its own.
Probably I don’t even know about all the people who have a look on what I do. I cannot change the world but I’d be happy if my artwork made people stop and think for a moment.