An Artist and the Feldenkrais Method
On the occasion of an exhibition of her work at Hodshill House near Bath, in December 2001, painter Angela Weyersberg talked about the profound effect the Feldenkrais Method has had on her work and on herself. What Angela said was recorded, transcribed, and edited by Ilana Nevill.
During the exhibition quite a few people were particularly struck by some large drawings of cedar trees in the garden, and told me: "Your trees look as if they had limbs, arms and legs".
I understood straight away and saw it then: This was completely new! I hadn't intentionally made those limbs myself. I had studied the tree very much, immersing myself more and more in this tree, becoming more and more part of the tree. My own body was very important. It felt as if I knew where the tree was in my body...
I have to try and put words to this now: Maybe it is like having to find a place in my body for what I see and then translate it again; it has to be transformed.
It's the same with colours. It's very interesting, I know the colours in my paintings are not seen, they are felt . I understood that quite clearly when I wanted to remember the colour of leaves, these marvellous autumn colours in the garden like beautiful carpets on the ground. I thought "How can I remember this vibrant yellow? How can I ever paint anything like this?" It took me a little while - two days - and then I thought: "Now I know where this yellow is in my body!" I remember the place in my body when I want to paint this yellow and I find it again. But I must have done this for a very long time, because I always knew that my colours are not what I see. They have to be experienced and lived with for a very long time and then I can make the picture and it is usually right. My body tells me, it's either in my shoulders or in my chest or can be in my belly...in various places. This has to do with a passion of feelings which come from that direction.
When Angela joined an Awareness Through Movement class she frequently experienced the most vivid colours while exploring a movement.
In one class I became completely euphoric and I didn't understand what was going on, but thought this was part of the exercise and everybody had the same experiences. But then I found that the others had had totally different experiences.
When I do the lessons now, I don't think of all that... I let the colours happen because they are on a different, much more superficial level than what we do in the lesson. It's a nervous reaction; I am highly pitched, so I have the most fantastic colour-experiences - and also experiences of space. But I haven't translated that into art. I don't like to do that. It's lovely, it's nice, it belongs to me, but it's also a bit frightening because the space in which these colours move is so enormous. It's like the stars, when you really get into the sky at night and look at the stars, ah, the vastness becomes so enormous. I feel: "Oh where am I? I want to be on the ground and in a little place where I belong."
I can get into this sky, this firmament, and loose myself; the same as in mountain landscapes when I am too high...
Drawing these trees I realized something very interesting about nature in general: why it is so wonderful to be anywhere outside and how quickly it is wonderful. You don't have to be there for long because we can relate everything to our body and our body becomes the outside.
When I am drawing I am very much linked to the tree and I think: "What is it that makes this tree as I see it?" And in comes my body suddenly. It is only my body that can attempt the tree, because I cannot see and understand the tree. I can't be the tree, but I can be my body and then relate to what I see out of my own limits...
It's not sensation...it's a wonderfulness of being more in tune and needing much less in life!
With these Feldenkrais lessons I come to a point where I am very happy just as I am and don't need a lot of sensations, don't have all these desires. I am very happily and wonderfully in tune with myself. Wonder is important because it is always new and it can be there any time when I am with my body. That is the gift of these lessons. You have to be in the moment. This is something which artists probably do: they look for the moment, they find the moment is precious. And you need to make space for this; so life becomes different; you are not striving for activity - you can't because you loose the moment then.
Feldenkrais had a big effect on me. It was very comfortable and it linked up with my work, certainly, but then I also became interested in it for another reason. It had to do with entering something else... It was my body , which isn't really some thing. In my art I usually enter things; I enter a tree, I enter a face, I enter a flower very much, and then I become all this. I become the tree, I become this root...
Entering my own body. however. is an enormous experience. I think I had quite a hostile relationship to my body. I used to enter my body through other things, through the flowers, through the trees, and through what I did in painting; this was my way to myself.
I arrived in my body, which is of course the essential. You only have to be in your body in life. You don't have to be in flowers or trees; but if you are in your body it's a gift. One doesn't need to be an artist to do this, but I used the work of an artist to become myself. We all do this in different ways.
I think when you get older you need to be in your body; this is the most important thing: to arrive at yourself, to arrive in your body - and then you go further. Your body is your house which is given to you; you have to accept and like it as it is. You have to get out of it too because ultimately you are somewhere else...
Years and years ago I wrote something down for you about a night when I was walking out in the country. It was the first time when I felt something completely new: "I am connected! I am in the universe and I am part of all this
I got lost when I was walking in the woods very close to our house, just on another hill. But I could not see anything and I thought "How do I get home now?...I need all my senses because I remember temperatures in different areas, and remember sounds, and I have to find all these and when I find them I find my way home." ...and I did. It was about my outside skin and my listening and remembering how my body felt in these places when it was light and I knew where I was.
This was the Feldenkrais experience in relationship to the outside world. I wrote this down for you three years ago, but I never gave it to you, and recently found it again.
I know that I did not learn to like my body. I never liked my body when I was young. I didn't understand... my body was not a nice body when I was young. I could not like it, and I know it probably comes from my relationship with my mother. She did not cuddle me and love me. This is not to say anything bad about her; it was just this culture I lived in where the body was not important; the body was left out. But I had to find the body - we all have to live in a body, want to live in a body - I think that's why I started painting, getting involved with life itself. I did it with my body, of course, but I didn't know that I was trying to inhabit my body properly. I used my body for becoming what I liked, and ' what I found was the wonder in life. But I only received my body now.
One of Angela's last paintings
Drawings by Angela Weyersberg