Stefanie Schulte on painting music and Vivaldi’s seasons

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Working in her Canberra studio, German-born artist Stefanie Schulte listens to music. Many artists do that while working, but Schulte’s listening is different: she sees music as much as she hears it, and that faculty is apparent in her latest suite of paintings, Vivaldi’s Seasons.

Schulte does not use an easel when painting. She lays her support flat, directly on to a work table, and works from all angles, embroiled in an intuitive response that translates music into layered lozenges of rich colour that evoke colour field theory more than the Baroque. “I like to move around and see them a bit like maps, creating this two-dimensional architecture,” Schulte says. “Once I sent a painting to a collector in the UK and said, ‘There is no up and down or left and right—I recommend hanging it this way, but it is also up to you’.”

Schulte’s first investigations into Antonio Vivaldi’s famous violin concertos known as The Four Seasons, created between 1718-20, revealed the composer may have been inspired by the paintings of Italian 16th-century painter Marco Ricci. Schulte was also intrigued by the sonnets Vivaldi produced to accompany his music, which she listened to constantly while making her paintings. The work comprises four sets of three to reflect the season-themed compositions. At ANCA, they will be hung on opposite walls: two seasons directly facing the other two seasons.

“Seasons can be very different in various parts of the world,” Schulte says. “In my own country in summer—if there is a summer—we are very happy about it! But in Venice it’s more a lot of heat and thunderstorms; and Vivaldi’s summer movement is quite dark and sad. I can see why he has written it like that.”

Vivaldi’s Seasons
Stefanie Schulte

Australian National Capital Artists (ANCA)
25 May—19 June

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Andrew Stephens