The following text has been translated from Italian to English by Vivienne Roberts with the permission of the author, Paola Giovetti. The full version in Italian was first published in 1982 as part of Paola’s book Arte Medianica by Edizioni Mediterranee. I would like to thank Paola for her kindness in giving permission for mediumisticart.com to share the art of Salomé and enable us to learn more about this enigmatic mediumistic artist. Copyright of the text remains with Paola Giovetti.
Salomé is the pseudonym of a German artist who described how she started working mediumistically in the early 1970s when she was about 35 years old: “It was a sunny day and I had settled on a deck chair to write a letter, but with no idea or special desire, I was actually closer to falling asleep than writing. And then, on the white sheet, a strange and fascinating image formed, which came out of my pen without my will. The hand holding it did not participate at all to the execution and I witnessed the phenomenon as one witnesses a dream. When I became aware of what I had done, I was stunned. Since I was a child I have had a passion for drawing, but this image was something different, autonomous and complete in itself: a fairytale being, with an oriental charm. I kept repeating “I didn’t do it, I can’t have done it!” However, within four days I made at least 60 more, and so it went on”.
Salomé is from an artistic family and demonstrated from an early age a great love for painting and drawing. However, family duties kept her busy and it was only after her marriage that she resumed painting with great enthusiasm. The results were often unsatisfactory and so in search of discovering the technical secrets of the ancient masters Salomé visited museums in order to understand the enigma of their works. There were difficulties in her personal life too; the disappointment of not bearing a son (she has two daughters), her father’s death and a serious illness. During these difficult times Salomé experienced intense dreams always coming at moments of great difficulty and when she needed support.
In these dreams Salomé sees a being of light next to her, who promises to help her. They are often set in an Egyptian environment with a forgotten city and a winged being on three elephants: a symbol that she later found in a seal preserved in an Egyptian museum. In one dream Salomé can be seen from above, lying on an operating table, while some doctors in white coats make her give birth to something that is not a child. Then the scene changes and Salomé sees herself drawing an elephant with black charcoal on a white sheet of paper. The dream was not clear at the time, but Salomé explains that it came true seven years later when she had an operation to remove her uterus which coincided with her first exhibition in which she presented a painting called The Message. This oil painting represented her spirit guide under the guise of an elephant which Salomé depicts as “two-legged and almost transparent with huge ears adorned with pearls and precious stones, similar to a butterfly. One leg ends in a bird’s leg, the other in one hoof that throws a shiny and transparent orb at the viewer. The sphere as a complete whole in itself, indicates an idea or thought, that is, a spiritual message. The wings of a butterfly indicate belonging to the spiritual world with one leg in the afterlife and the other (the hoof) here in the earthly world. The elephant head refers to the Indian Ganesh, the one who overcomes all obstacles. The pearls, which we see so often in Salomé’s paintings, are a symbol of the conquest of higher values through pain.
These prophetic dreams which always included a representation of the luminous male figure of her spirit guide are very different from usual dreams says Salomé, “theirs is a special quality, like a substance made of light and crystal; they are more vivid than everyday reality which in comparison appears faded”. It was through a long series of these dreams that the secret pictorial techniques of the ancient Flemish masters was revealed to Salomé and have contributed to her success as a professional painter. However, this technical revelation did not immediately resolve all of Salomé’s problems and it took years of struggling to understand what the dreams were trying to communicate to her and to find a way for her to express herself in art. She was told in a dream not to give up and now feels that she has at last arrived, explaining the process as being “A long, hard uncomfortable journey. It took ten years of dream messages for me to come to perceive and understand this invisible world, and that I could pass it on to others. Although, I have the impression of being only at the beginning of a task that someone has devised for me and which will be my life’s work.”
Salomé has two distinct ways of painting. One is consciously as an artist that fulfils her commitments of exhibitions and commissions. The other is what she herself defines as “unconscious” or “not knowing what she is going to do”, a process she describes for her painting as “preceded by a certain nervousness which produces in me an impulse that increases until I have to work, having no idea of what I will paint. All the time I paint, I am literally ‘watching’ with emotion, tension and curiosity of what is happening. I keep my eyes half closed, my pupils fixed and with intense concentration. Everything is projected inwards with no thoughts or desires. It is as if I am in a state of trance, but with an attentive body, as if ready for a great leap. This intense state of concentration lasts a relatively short time, then the hold that dominates me yields a little and it develops into a more relaxed state of working. I often have to interrupt the process because I am totally exhausted, and then have to wait for that mysterious force to capture me again. For drawings it’s different. In their case I still feel a certain nervousness, but settle down comfortably on an armchair allowing my elbows to be free with a small piece of paper in my lap. I then focus on my hands, until I am in a similar state to what immediately precedes sleep and my hand feels a slight pleasant tingling. I hold the pen straight between thumb and index finger, barely touching it. I then begin to draw. At points I am exhausted, but at the same time when I stop drawing I feel as if I have had a good rest.
Salomé’s unconscious art is completed without ever having to make corrections unlike her professional conscious painting of which she is never satisfied until it has been corrected and improved. She also notices that “If for a certain period I paint consciously, the unconscious production is concentrated within me like a volcano or an earthquake, until at a certain point the explosion occurs.” She believes that “Like dreams, true mediumistic paintings come when they have to come, and like dreams their meaning is not immediately understood. In fact, I often paint a picture that I don’t really know what it means, I don’t even know what title it has and then one day a friend comes to me and explains that the painting refers to certain facts and experiences of their life. So a painting is like a letter from beyond and I am only the postman.”
The artistic process is helped by her spirit guide who plays the “role of a father or a powerful friend to whom I can ask for help, an autonomous entity that is not definable. However, he does not fulfil all of my wishes, but I have the feeling that, in addition to this guide, I let my father, grandfather and other entities that I have seen in my dreams help guide my painting.”
In general, Salomé’s paintings are quite small, her preferred size is 27 x 22cm, and the time taken to complete them varies. Usually it is half an hour for the drawings and the oil paintings can take months as she has to allow time for parts to dry. Unlike her conscious paintings, Salomé refuses to sell her mediumistic paintings saying her relationship to them is like that of her children. “They are not just paintings, but animated things, which live a life of their own and transmit messages.” She describes this work as the “most beautiful, important, positive and real thing of my whole life”. When the phenomenon suddenly entered her life she was afraid that she was a victim of fraud by the ‘mysterious Freudian subconscious’, and only after a long battle with herself was she convinced that she was truly guided and it did not matter what others believed. What she is interested in is making people think with her paintings, making them meditate or reflect.
Copyright © Paola Giovetti
For other mediumistic artists featured in Paola’s book please see our pages on Gertrud Emde, Iris Canti, Narciso Bressanello and Fritzi Libora Reif.