About Susann Haehnel
I am an artist based in Oxford [Barton]. I work primarily in oils, lovestrong colours and often lean towards the lines, forms and shapes ofabstract painting. I believe art can change things – it can help us look at people and situations and the environment, and imagine. Art can help us to live into the future, to imagine more of life’s potential. I seek to explore hope. I want to imagine summer in winter, and in that longing for something different, invite others to see beauty and step into hope too.
I also enjoy painting flowers, or the seaside, or characters that light up story times for my nephews and godchildren. The kids are excited to experience their favourite animal, and I love the time and conversation we share. Painting gives me a way to connect, to nurture relationship.
Art has been running through my veins since my birth. It’s just taken me a while to discover that.
I was born and grew up in Rottluff, East Germany, the small town where Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, the well-known expressionist painter and printmaker, lived and created his art. My great-aunty regularly saw him painting in the fields. And my own great-uncle was a local artist and glass painter around the same time.
I loved anything creative and expressive as a kid: chalk painting in the street, decorating cakes, or crafting unique gifts for family and friends. When I was eight, I drew a rose, deep red, in full bloom. It’s still pinned to my parents’ kitchen cork board. But the business of being a teenager and the demands of secondary education pushed creativity to the sidelines. I was still fascinated by art, but now more as an observer. I admired the work of modern artists of the 20th century – the boldness of Picasso’s shapes, or Dali’s blues and golden yellows. I kept my ‘fingers in the paint’ by taking a few after-school art classes or fiddling with watercolours or landscapes on art holidays. Later, during work trips, I sought out original masterpieces in Washington, or New York, or Milan.
Then, in 2016, I hit a crisis. What was I doing with my life? I needed to make changes, to tap into unfulfilled dreams, to focus my heart and mind in a different place. ‘What does creativity look like for me now?’ I asked myself. And that’s how I rediscovered my love for creating art. I signed up to an oil painting class, and a new artistic venture began. I have since taken several classes at Abingdon and Witney College and am loving exploring, developing my own style – working mainly in oils, but occasionally also with watercolours.
I have found that producing art is a process that engages all of me: physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is the smell of the oil paints, the challenge of interpretation, the joy of creating something worth admiring. It is a prayerful process, and it is connection. As I tap into my creativity, I feel drawn into creation, participant in its eternal mystery.
‘Art is the highest form of hope.’
Gerhard Richter (East Germany)