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Creating encounters

Wolfgang Tiedemann works with expressive forms and colours and creates encounters – not only with his art, but also in his many years of work as a drama teacher. An excerpt of his work ‘Begegnung’ (2015), which will be shown at the exhibition at WALA.
Photo: Wolfgang Tiedemann

You were originally concerned with educational issues, and in your exhibition we see abstract painting. Which way did you go with your art?

I started with a focus on art education. After completing my degree in Nuremberg and an apprenticeship as a carpenter with a journeyman’s certificate, I worked for three years in a special education institution. While I was there I learned about anthroposophy and worked on eurythmy, speech formation and watercolour painting. After further training as a speech formation practitioner and language therapist, I worked for about 30 years in the drama department of the Michael Bauer Schule in Stuttgart, a private Waldorf school. In addition to individual work in classes and among the staff, I supervised the class plays of the 8th and 12th grade (two classes in each year group), as well as the Christmas plays.

An interesting life path with a clear focus on art education. How did you get into painting?

During my degree course I was able to attend all the classes of the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg for several weeks. In addition to the free painting classes, the sculptors, goldsmiths and graphic artists, I was particularly interested in all types of printing, screen printing, wood and linoleum printing, etchings and lithographs. Later, in the special education institution, I got into layered painting with watercolour colours. I continued this work during my time as a drama teacher. Later I also started making small sculptures out of soapstone, which turned my sense of space on its head.

As official retirement approached, I began an intensive phase of artistic creation, particularly painting. Switching from watercolours to acrylics has opened me up to new possibilities for an expressive way of painting. I see several advantages: acrylic paint can be applied such that it is either translucent or fully opaque, and it dries faster than watercolour.

During his artistic creative phase, Wolfgang Tiedemann experimented with different styles and materials. During his time at the Academy, he made the linocut ‘Clown’ in 1973, which is inspired by Cubism.
Photo: Wolfgang Tiedemann
In his work with soapstone, Wolfgang Tiedemann developed a new sense of space. ‘Owl’ (2007).
Photo: Herbert Millahn
One of his current works: ‘Thunderstorm’ (2021). Acrylic on cardboard.
Photo: Wolfgang Tiedemann

Most of the time you were employed as a drama teacher. What did you want to convey to the young people?

When I was teaching drama to 13- and 14- or 17- and 18-year-olds, or to young people from the special needs classes, what was absolutely central was the joy of transformation and thus the opportunity for young people to recognise themselves. When directing plays, I always tried to get them to create a complete work of art out of all the different areas such as language, scenery, props, costumes, music and light/colours.

What happens before you take that daunting first step of picking up your paintbrush? Do you have a specific picture in your head? Or do a lot of things happen intuitively?

Before I even pick up the brush, I have to prepare the painting surface. Hard fibreboards or thick cardboards are primed, which usually means that they are filled, rolled or painted with a uniform colour. At this point, design ideas can already arise by association. Then constant colour and format changes help. When concentrating on details, I work for as long as possible without engaging my imagination. A lively process begins with the question of what comes to me out of the creative chaos. Inspired by Vincent van Gogh: ‘A picture without a frame is like a soul without a body’, the framing of each picture has become part of my artistic concept.

Wolfgang Tiedemann loves encounters. His eponymous exhibition can be seen by WALA employees in the stairwell of the main building.
Photo: Wolfgang Tiedemann

Why did you call the current exhibition ‘Encounters’? What do encounters mean to you?

I find any kind of encounter interesting! Looking at a work of art can change the encounter with myself, with my own biography, but also with another person. The stairwell in which the exhibition is shown is essentially a place where everyone simply ‘passes through’. Where did I come from? Where am I going? Am I taking something with me? Even in ‘passing’ an encounter can take place – ideally a good one.