Fragments of Light

Monthly Archives: August 2016

Art as Accident

Gabriele Wilpers, a multi-faceted artist from Essen, Germany, spoke last April at the Community of Jesus to a group of art enthusiasts about her personal approach to art. Gabriele’s insight into the creative process was punctuated by photographs of her paintings and various international installations. The following is an excerpt from Gabriele’s lecture “The Gate of Longing”.

The Accident

“Making use of accidents in the artistic process is a recurring concept in the arts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The unforeseeable and unpredictable often provide two creative opportunities. Interestingly, Leonardo da Vinci already knew about the strength of coincidence. In a passage from his “Treatise on Painting”, he appreciated that coincidence was an important ingredient of the artistic imagination and creativity.

I suggest that you sometimes stop and observe marks found on a wall, the ashes from a fire, clouds or even sludge on the ground and other such places. You will discover, if you observe correctly, many wonderful new perceptions. Through these obscure and undefined things, your spirit will awaken to new concepts, new inspirations.

A surprising parallel can be found 300 years before Leonardo. In the 11th century, a Chinese painter Sung Ti, gave his colleague Chen Yung Chih the following advice – “Look for an old broken wall. Throw a piece of white silk over it and observe it mornings and evenings until you eventually can see the old wall with its sharp edges and flat places, jagged lines and splits. Hold fast with your eyes and be aware in your spirit. When you have done all of this you will see it enlivened with people, birds, plants and flowers and full of movement. Then can you paint away to your heart’s desire and what you create will be heavenly and not earthly.”


Gabriele Wilpers uses a variety of artistic methods in her artworks – painting, installation objects, film, architectural glass – to reflect and describe the human existence. One of her focal areas of expression, besides painting and photography is spatial concept art. Her interventions in an existing space, which can be both sacred and profane in nature, question the context in which modern man lives today.

Trained as a photographer in the early 1970’s, Wilpers also studied painting at the Essen Folkwang School. Working as a freelance visual artist since 1979 on numerous exhibitions and projects, she has completed facade and wall designs for both churches and private companies. Willers’s work has been awarded first prize in several art competitions in the public domain. In recent years, Wilpers has designed entire church interiors for several parishes in the Archdiocese of Freiburg in Breisgau and the formidable gold and glass sculpture on the west wall of the Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, Massachusetts.

Detail of West Wall: Gabriel Wilpers, design;Derix Glasstudios, fabrication; Copy right 2010 Orleans Church Building Foundation; photo courtesy of Community of Jesus artist
Detail of West Wall: Gabriel Wilpers, design; Derix Glasstudios, fabrication; Copyright 2010 Orleans Church Building Foundation; photo courtesy of Community of Jesus artist