“Walk towards the sun, then you leave the shadows behind you!”
German-born artist and writer Petra Eiko aims to live according to these words of wisdom, drawing from life’s challenges to create unique works of art that examine inner spaces and universal possibilities.
“I work with the spaces in between, behind the trained and conditioned physical eye and comprehension,” says Eiko, whose paintings, projects and installations are exhibited internationally, including in Germany, Korea, Qatar, Italy, Chile, Japan, Cuba and Bangladesh.
Influenced by the struggles she experienced growing up in post-WW2 Germany, Eiko creates multifaceted works of art “targeted to specifically invoke conversations and discussions of the viewer, mirroring realities, focusing on connections between people, society, cultures and diverse backgrounds.”
In her interactive project, "the-green-heart" (the-green-heart.com), she presents a visual documentation of the similarities we all share. The exhibit asks people to anonymously answer the question: “What is in your heart?—the world is listening.” Viewers share their wishes, ideas, dreams and challenges on pieces of paper which are added to the art piece to create a huge collage. The ongoing project has collected nearly 10,000 posts during its exhibition at 15 different locations and had 26 installations in local high schools throughout the state. The whole collection of posts to date was displayed at Building Bridges Art Exchange in Santa Monica, curated by Marisa Caichiolo.
“The beauty of the green heart is [that it shows] we have the same challenges in any corner of the world; we worry about the same things; it’s pretty simple when you boil it down,” says Eiko, adding that this realization helps to unite people. “They see they are not alone, and they have common ground.”
Created with the intention to further awareness and understanding about oneself or interpersonal relationships between people or countries, Eiko’s art focuses on scientific studies, investigations and examinations of perception, and understanding our actions and the effect and influences they might have.
“Sometimes we have to look a little bit deeper to find the meaning behind the seeing eye,” she notes, pointing to the importance of perception. When we perceive something, “we see something, but to understand it, there’s a deeper depth to it; when we go behind what the eye sees, then all of a sudden there is a special understanding. I think all my life I’ve tried to figure out what it is to see how we perceive things and manifest.”
Her series, “the eye,” presents 145 different pairs of eyes she photographed, deepening her investigation of spaces behind seeing and comprehension.
“The eyes are a gateway to your soul; for many years, I’ve studied the meaning behind the eye and how we can go deeper into our consciousness,” Eiko says, noting that the photographs led her to create a series of “cubes” consisting of concave and flat paintings. “In the flats and concave paintings, the black border reflects the viewer again and the rhythmic spherical shapes entice the eye into the work, slowly working from the edges into the center and then back out, with an action that gives the viewer an experience that doesn’t allow one to quickly look away—one is captivated, a fascinating manipulation.”
Her paintings “Illusion” and “Hemispheres” are created on plexiglass, her signature material.
“Plexiglass, with its ability to mirror our surroundings, serves as the perfect vehicle to visually present the physical and the emotional; the outside and inside,” explains Eiko, adding, “The concave domes contained in acrylic boxes invite the viewer to experience illusion and reality. The reflective surfaces of the plexi make the collectors the final collaborators of the art pieces, because it gives life wherever the artwork is installed.”
Eiko’s unique reverse paintings on flat, concave and convex plexiglass surfaces create three-dimensional pieces and sculptures with an element of modern architecture.
“These paintings radiate the energy of life, capture the unknown and the pulsating vivacity of humankind in the invisible universe of energy. They deal with the ever-changing and the constant movement that surrounds us,” says Eiko.
Her recent work, “No Comment,” started in 2019 right before the pandemic, comprises a series of photos depicting the emotional state and struggle of “Niemand” (nobody) in these current unstable times.
“The transparent prints on plexiglass tell the story of our self-inflicted world in our society and in ourselves, consequently bouncing back to us in many facets and multiple levels of our consciousness,” says Eiko. She revisits “Niemand’s” conflicts within the world of nature in her short video, “humanature,” created during the pandemic.
“The stillness of confinement that came with the pandemic in early 2020 left me with the sound and perception of nature, directing my awareness more than ever before to the fact that nature will move on without human population,” she says, adding that “the world of nature lives with us, beside us, for us, but forever lives as its own entity.”
An eternal optimist, Eiko expresses her hope for humanity through her unique works of art.
“There’s always room for being hopeful; the pandemic has shown us how fragile our system is,” she says. “We can work toward a better balance between nature and the industrial world. As people realize we have a ‘deeper meaning,’ we need to get together and go easy on our resources; it’s an interesting moment to live in.”
Despite life’s challenges, Eiko is grateful and counts living and working in Malibu for the past 35 years among her many blessings.
“Each day we have, especially in California, when the sun rises, we have the possibility to reinvent ourselves to live a better life and it’s amazing,” says Eiko. “Every day is new and gives you an opportunity to live better.”
For more information about Petra Eiko’s artwork, visit petraeiko-art.com.