Ursula Wolf has been working as a self-taught artist for many years. In 2019 she decided to study at HF Fine Arts in St. Gallen. She is currently working each day on the long-term project ‘what was important today’, which is about people and events. That’s what inspires her, opens up new paths for her time and again and is reflected in her work. Ursula Wolf grew up in Liechtenstein and still lives there today. She is married, has three children and is 56 years old.
Where and how did you grow up?
I grew up with my older sister and my younger brother on the Eschnerberg. Up there is nature— still today – very beautiful and you have a wide view. We had a dog, cats, guinea pigs and even ducks back then. I liked to move around outdoors and often visited the farm in the neighbourhood. I loved flowers and anything that crawled. Touching ‘creepy things’ was no problem; I knew no fear of contact.
I was allowed to experience a really beautiful childhood and felt loved. Even as a child I loved to paint, make things and play freely. My parents supported me as they also liked to be creative. Later I attended piano lessons and did gymnastics.
My memories include the textile factory Marxana with its many rooms and the hideaway where my Nana lived, as well as the Städtli Werdenberg with the Buchser Seeli and the castle, where my grandparents were at home.
Could you describe your professional background?
I did work experience in three professions. As a graphic designer at Louis Jäger, at a travel agency in Vaduz and as a kindergarten teacher in Eschen. Being creative and working with people interested me and so I became a kindergarten teacher. The education was versatile: handicraft, music and theatre but also subjects like pedagogy and psychology were not neglected. Nevertheless, I always took time to travel and often changed my place of work. I loved my job, but I wanted to continue further education.
At the age of 24 I applied to art school in St. Gallen. For the time being however I opted for a sports qualification. In those days during my spare time I worked as a self-taught artist. On a seven-month trip around the world – an adventure I will never forget – I discovered diving and the fascinating underwater world.
With a family and three children it was clear to me that I would no longer pursue my profession. Instead my artistic work continued to develop. After a one and a half year stay in the USA with my family, I accomplished my first exhibition in Zug. This was followed by a commission to design and produce a hundred eL-figures (Einkaufland Liechtenstein). This in turn resulted in new commissions, projects, exhibitions and publications. Using my art figure and avatar ‘Flotti Löwenherz’ I went public in 2011 and became active on social media.
In 2016 I started a two-year art foundation course at the Gewerbliches Berufs- und Weiterbildungszentrum St.Gallen. Subsequently, I completed a degree in fine arts at HF. My first exhibition as a ‘graduated’ artist was in the fall of 2019 at ARTContainer in Zurich.
Were there certain events or stations that were formative for your career?
The early death of my mother was very painful. From then on, I had to make my decisions alone and I think that I made many of my decisions intuitively right. When the children were small I had little time but my need to work creatively was immense. Moreover, the children inspired and forced me to positively accept the random, the unplanned and to gain strength from that. During our time in the U.S., I developed many ideas – painted and painted. The Atlanta, the predecessor of the eL-figures and probably also the inspiration for Flotti and her friends, was created. Back in Liechtenstein I won the public art commission ‘Eintrachtskreisel’ in Eschen and more commissions for sculptures followed. I also managed my (late) entry into digitalization and now work daily with various graphics programs and am active on many social media channels.
Have there been certain people who have been formative for your career?
It’s the little comments from different people, both positive and negative, that sharpened my inner self and made me look more closely and reflect. Most of the time it was the critical discussions that resonated for a long time and spurred my ambition.
Has your environment supported you in your career?
They were well-disposed towards me and interested in my work. Supporting me is often not so easy. My husband Markus has always supported me over the years and also critically questioned my projects and works and discussed them with me, which was and is very important for me.
What are your current activities?
I work daily on my long-term project ‘what was important today’ by drawing and contrasting important and unimportant things from the Liechtenstein national newspapers. The latest issue can be found on my website. A selection from the last few years is currently displayed on a large screen in the window of the Omni bookstore in Schaan. From October to December I will be working on a project in the artist studio in Berlin and am currently in the preparation phase.
In September I am planning a body art performance. This will be called ‘Us’m Buuch’. My projects always have to do with people. That’s how I am also often on the road with Flotti Löwenherz, meeting interesting people and their stories. Flotti is my avatar which I have built up over many years and which gives me the opportunity to make art in a ‘flotti way’. On social media Flotti has many followers.
Does what you are currently doing fulfil you?
I guess it’s more a feeling that often feels very good, but still makes me doubt myself sometimes. It’s what I know how to do and I have no other choice because I have a deep need to create art. In this respect the why is not important for me.
Do you think that you yourself have an influence on whether your activities are fulfilling?
Of course. I don’t think I’m any different from other professions in that respect. I have a preference for long-term projects that grow with each passing day and fulfil me. I also want to bravely try out new things and go my own way. The more I reflect on my work, the longer it fulfils me. My positive attitude helps me to adapt to new situations. And I will have to leave a lot to chance and make the best of it.
What or who inspires you in everyday life?
The surprising, the random in everyday life attracts me and stimulates my imagination time and again. This happens frequently and almost regularly. I can actually rely on it and feel no pressure. Observations and conversations also inspire me. Everything is there, you just have to see it.
What or who gives you strength and energy in everyday life?
My family gives me this strength, but at the same time demands a lot of energy back. Sporting activities and the daily walk with the dog help me to stay in balance. Being out and about on walks helps me to organize my thoughts, to be with myself.
My time is virtually always filled. I rarely spend an hour doing nothing, like taking a break, being lazy. Maybe that’s because when the children were small, I had to use every minute to be able to pursue my work. The feeling of not having enough time drives me and creates energy in me. Always pushing yourself to the limit can be quite reckless, as I had to learn from personal experience. It’s an experience I wouldn’t want to miss – and that’s when good friends are very important.
There are ‘magic moments’ when everything seems to fit. Moments that fulfil, inspire and give strength. Moments that confirm that the effort is worthwhile and that what you do is meaningful and valuable. Have you already experienced such moments in relation to your own activities?
Yes, there were such moments. They are indescribable. An intoxicating, tingling feeling in the stomach. I can’t find the right words to describe these moments. It would take away their magic.
Do you actively do something for it, so that such ‘magic’ moments can happen?
I work intensively and persistently. Of course, as with all work, there is sometimes a low or a slump. Then I say to myself ‘keep at it and stay authentic’. And then it’s these coincidences that surprise me and that I can’t influence, but that make them all the more magical!
Are there moments when you doubt what you are doing?
Of course there are moments like that. I set high expectations for myself and some things often don’t turn out the way I envision them. When I suddenly question everything, I have to go outdoors, do sports, run long distances, look for a conversation, or pick up a sketchbook and paint away.
In retrospect, can you find something positive in difficult moments?
Again and again because I have grown from them, they have strengthened me in my work. Experience has shown me that it is worth facing these situations and getting through them. It has always brought me further.
Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?
No, I would do it this way again. My focus is on the future. If I don’t use the time now, then when?
Do you want to contribute to society with your activities?
Caspar David Friedrich – a major painter and draftsman of early German Romanticism – wrote: ‘Art may be a game, but it is a serious game.’ My work is meant to inspire joy, to arouse curiosity, and to raise questions upon closer inspection, allowing for interesting conversations. Making something visible is often part of the content of my work as well. In the project ‘Who cares?’ by Kunstverein Schichtwechsel I was able to draw attention to an explosive topic, namely domestic care work done by female migrant care workers.
Is the recognition of other people or the public important to you?
True recognition helps artistic creation. Being understood in our society can have a lasting effect. Applause is one thing – interest is the real recognition.
Is there something that is particularly occupying you at the moment?
The Corona Pandemic is currently keeping everyone busy and is also affecting my plans. If it works out, I’ll be in the studio in Berlin from October to December. Let’s see how that feels. Alone in a big city, away from my family. But I will turn to the same themes there as here. I’m interested in people, chance, home, borders and social justice.
Is there something you would like to (increasingly) spend time on in the future?
In the near future, my focus will be on my Berlin project. In general, I want to get more involved in how I bring art to the people. I’m currently trying to stage new art forms in public spaces, not least to move those people who tend to avoid art.
What are you most grateful for in life?
As I get older, my awareness is increasing of how important it is to have had a happy childhood and to be able to pass on this basic trust.
This interview is part of the project “Magic Moments” by Kunstverein Schichtwechsel, in which people are interviewed about their careers, activities and their magical as well as difficult moments.
Curated by Stefani Andersen and Laura Hilti, Kunstverein Schichtwechsel.
Supported by Kulturstiftung Liechtenstein and Stiftung Fürstl. Kommerzienrat Guido Feger.
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