Artists & Writers in their Own Words: Maria Strutz

Dancing Otters by Maria Strutz

Maria Strutz is a German artist, printmaker, sculptor and translator, who lives in the UK. Her art weaves together the magical and liminal worlds of animals, nature, spirits and mythology She has delighted her fans and followers for many years with her unique linocut prints and sculptures that tap into the primeval story of humans and animals, bound together in sacred unity. She reminds us of an ancient tale known to us only in dreams. A sleepy netherworld of animals, plants, rocks and bones. Maria tells her story…

At the core of my art is a strong connection to nature

The spirits of animals and plants, landscape, stones, the sea and the elements. My art is about pattern recognition, weaving dreams, stories and images into a whole.

Beyond that I am struggling to put my art and spirituality into words.

I love the sea and the sound of waves pulling back and pebbles surging and crashing

Stones, pebbles and fossils are a constant inspiration, their shapes, marks and patterns. The Thames foreshore, stones, bones, seaglass, a sense of history and wonder in everything you find.

I love it when ideas come together

Sometimes this takes a long time, an idea is there and waiting but it will not manifest. It can be frustrating, and sometimes the ideas are dormant for weeks, months, sometimes years; until somethings shifts, and the idea suddenly is clear. If a piece works, it feels fantastic.

And looking at such finished work where I feel nothing needs to be changed but it simply ‘is’, it is deeply satisfying.

My influences

I grew up with German expressionism; August Macke, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, Franz Marc, Paula Modersohn-Becker.

I love Japanese woodcuts (Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi)

I find their perfection of technique astonishing, and their depiction of natural phenomena sometimes leaves an ache in me, a tinge of sadness as I know I will never come close to emulating that perfection and beauty.

Sybil Andrews has had a big influence on my linocut art. Her lines, movement and sense of landscape are something I continue to aspire to.

Sybil Andrews, Plough, linocut, 1961
Sybil Andrews, Plough, linocut, 1961

Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Horn; Yayoi Kusama – her infinity mirror rooms probably have had a big impact on my obsession with mirrored images.

Picasso’s animal sculptures, his ability to capture the essence of animals; and his humour; the sculptures of Jean Miro, Alexander Calder, Leonora Carrington, Niki de Saint Phalle; the Nanas and her Tarot Garden. Max Ernst, Remedios Varo. The sculptures of Nicola Hicks and Paloma Varga Weisz.

The need to be creative has never left me

When I was 16 I spent a year as an exchange student in the United States. I took loads of art classes in high school and loved it. After my exchange I went back to Germany and graduated from high school followed by art school. I found that formal art education did not particularly agree with me. It was not a good period in my life, a lot of painful stuff happened.

Bones are what remains of us all. Death, beyond death, beauty of death

In Art School, I became fascinated with bones. We were supposed to model a skull in clay, with a choice of horse, cow or human. Observing the beauty of skulls, seeing the shapes, angles, ins and outs, concave and convex, the fine lines, fine ridges.

Exquisite balance of marks and angles, perfect beauty. The beauty of death. Not the clinical fear of rotting and wasting, dying alone, but being encompassed by the universe, becoming one, going on, melding.

The skull of a fox
The skull of a fox

I have spent a lot of time with bones on the Thames foreshore, sifting through bones, sitting in piles of bones.

The waves tinkling and playing with pieces of ceramics. The bones jingling, hollow and resonant musical instruments. Bone mother. A comfort in bones.

Stones of Hope

Often I become interested in a particular animal because of dreams or journeys

Once an animal catches my attention, I immerse myself in their natural history and mythology

I read stories and books about them, watch videos and look at countless photographs to get an idea of their movements, their fur, skin, musculature, typical postures, and I fill notebooks with sketches.

When fascinated with an animal, I become obsessed for a while; in the end some stay with me, others float away

Some of the animals that I love are crows, bears, otters, seals, badgers, foxes, wolves. And owls. I always return to owls.

Once the idea is there, definitely ‘there’ and it just needs to be executed, I have to stay in the flow of it, and I might listen to something to support the feel of artwork.

If I could give advice to myself as a young artist, I would say:

Be creative, doodle and play. Don’t wait for things to happen in order for you to be able to be creative. Carve out the time, the space, play. Also, you don’t have to study art necessarily, just create. And continue creating.

‘Ghost trees, Ghost Bear and Ruffled Fox on Pony Hills’ by Maria Strutz
‘Ghost trees, Ghost Bear and Ruffled Fox on Pony Hills’ by Maria Strutz

If you do decide to go for an art degree, research the schools and the teachers. If you have a choice go for a teacher whose work you adore and whose opinions you respect.

I love being in flow and being creative. It’s an imperative…I can’t not do it

Art school left me feeling bruised, hurt, raw and full of self-doubt. I tried to turn away from ‘art’ after this. Very soon I started scribbling away, with a biro, nearly in a secretive way. Biro doodles weren’t ‘art’, so I was safe.

I filled notebook after notebook. A few years later I started creating linocuts, as they felt playful. They were not something I had done at college, not something that was overlayed with my professors’ critical comments.

Bear hug large
Bear hug by Maria Strutz

During lockdown, I found it important to carve out physical routines for myself

Routines of beauty. I went to our local museum gardens nearly every morning in spring and summer and had breakfast in the sunken garden. I watched the spring display blossom into full bloom until it started withering and decaying. It was gorgeous and poignant in all its stages.

I went for a few twilight owl walks and heard owls and even got to see one or two. Total win!

I also found comfort in my artwork, entering a state of playfulness, creating non-obvious narratives. Narratives that I would like to be told.

I find creative flow is not a state that I am guaranteed to enter but when it does happen it is wonderful.

I noticed that I needed a near-constant supply of home-baked cake for most of last year. I had a period of cake-overload post-Christmas but have just made the first cake of the new year.

I enjoyed making wyrd lockdown recipes due to a lack of ordinary flour

My favourite was: Linzertorte, which is an Austrian hazelnut cake with cinnamon, cloves and raspberry jam and chickpea flour, a perfect combination.

I enjoyed getting out of my head and back into my body. In the evenings I’ve been regularly practicing a Karate ‘breathing kata’. It’s soothing and good before going to sleep.

Some of Hookland Guide’s words reach right into my core

There are quotes that I feel compelled to find a visual solution for; the Carousels of Luna Park, the Empress Eel, the ghostly trees on Pony Hills, the Ruffled Fox, the Bone Bear. Utterly inspiring and at the same time not always easy to manifest.

If I were to speak to my younger self, I would tell her: it is okay to be vulnerable

Be kind to yourself. Trust your vision even if you cannot sell it, even if it does not manifest in money, even if you cannot voice it to others. Be gentle with yourself. Learn to let go of unhelpful crap.

Owl Lady of Guadalupe’ by Maria Strutz
Owl Lady of Guadalupe’ by Maria Strutz

Also, I would give her a big list of don’ts…

  • Don’t listen to the fears of others.
  • Don’t believe that because others tell you that something is hard, that it will be hard for you too.
  • Don’t trust the judgement and opinions of people you don’t respect in turn.
  • Don’t measure yourself according to other people’s ideas of what being an artist means.
  • Don’t believe in others’ ideas of ‘success’.

One group whose music I return to again and again is Wardruna

They make music that is powerful, raw, circular, soaring, trance inducing, many-layered.

Although, I don’t think of myself as somebody who likes music. I find it easily distracting and irritating. Lyrics get in the way of my thought processes. Also, I tend to over-listen to music until it is spoiled, overfamiliar.

Thank you for reading, you can connect with me and buy my art here…

Twitter

My online shop

My website

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

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