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Rudolf Steiner's Blackboard Drawings (2003)

In the summer of 2003 I was asked to look after an exhibition of Rudolf Steiner's blackboard drawings at Oxford Brookes University, Edinburgh Art College and the Waterloo Gallery, London. Little did I know what a great joy and privilege it would be to sit with these remarkable drawings...

For ten years I have experienced the transformative and the uplifting in Rudolf Steiner's books and lectures, but there, in the presence of his drawings, I felt the full force and dynamic of the man himself at work. Standing in front of such pieces as the board entitled 'Crystals', in which "We see a revelation of a great abundance of beings bringing their lives to bear in the crystals in spatial shapes that are mathematically calculable", it is possible to imagine that he has just put the chalk down and left the room for a few minutes - such is the newness and vitality there. Before these dynamic drawings, one can feel a magnetic current and experience a fragment of an authentic, intensive process; a process that simultaneously fused a supercharged artistic deed, using coloured chalks on black paper, a phenomenal ability to see into the spirit realms and an inspired, animated style of speaking, all of which served to ground a glittering substance into the physical world.

The blackboard drawings stand on their own as Art; their beauty, their vibrancy and the shimmering use of colour give them that unquestionable right. However, some knowledge of Rudolf Steiner's powerful intuitive faculty to see beyond the sense-perceptible, coupled as it was with a thorough training in science and mathematics, plus a clear understanding of the context in which the drawings were made, can only enhance the viewing experience and add dimension to the thoughts and feelings that follow.

At the Oxford exhibition, I met Walter Kugler, curator of the Rudolf Steiner archive, and he spoke to me of the importance of saying the word 'spiritual' in a strong and resounding voice. In the context of an exhibition, it is always interesting to observe who lights up, eagerly awaiting more, and who allows their eyes to glaze over at the sounding of the word spiritual. Even more fascinating in this case was how many of those who initially showed scepticism or rejection of words like 'spiritual', 'formative forces' and 'hierarchies', seemed to find themselves, after a few moments of close proximity to the blackboard drawings, in an 'air-pocket' which triggered a wave of curiosity and a battery of questions. Often, these were the people who stayed the longest.

Being with the drawings has been a gift, the most poignant part of which is to truly appreciate this great man's deep compassion for his fellow human beings and his selfless quest to bring true and real understanding of that which had been hidden from most of us for so long. And also, let us not forget the extraordinary courage it must have taken to step up onto the stages of his time and speak of such things.

I have a book with images of a hundred and twenty of Rudolf Steiner's blackboard drawings. Sometimes I take one for contemplation before sleep, knowing that its vibrant lines and colours will be as a lantern and a map in the warm creative darkness...

An Article by Susan Raven


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