It’s been little more than a month now, since the idea to “The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist” had benn born. Since that time, the work, originally conceived as a mere Christmas present to myself, has developed quite a life of it’s own. Driven through the fuss of dispute and discussion in the social media, the work had to take its share of praise, criticism and revilement on all levels. Its has been challenged for its contentual correctness, adequacy to topic, artistic aspirations and aesthetic qualitities. At this, its priniciple “raison d’être” has been confirmed just about as often as it has been challenged.
The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist : how it all began
Core element of the idea having a world map of tea painted by an artist in the classical way was the creation of a visual icon for tea. There are lots of statistics about individual countries’ tea production, export, import and consumption figures available on the net and elsewhere already. Truckloads of ’em, actually. But a standing for tea, before Dec 1, 2016, did not exist. There were no contentual considerations, such as which countries, which information, which data, etc, at this point yet. But a painting that I would be able to hang on my wall was quickly turning to a painting that anybody would be able to hang on their wall.
For implementation, my idea demanded a graphical artist, a painter, to be exact, in the classical sense. Among the contacted artists from my personal social sphere, the painter and musician Elisabeth Six from Saarland, Germany, stood out with a great deal of excitement for my project right from the start. Her enthusiasm for creating a world map of tea with her own hands, brush, pencil and color on canvas made her a logical choice. And the synergies, the high energetic level, the exuberant mood of first talks and the resulting fountain of ideas did one last thing to get her qualified.
The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist : first things first
Brainstormings, scetches, color experiments, discussions, arguments, counterarguments, decsions, trial and error. How, actually, do painting artists decide on the proper size of a painting? Did anyone here ever ask themselves this question? We find a canvas size 1m x 0.70m somewhere in Elisabeth’s atelier. That one’s just fine.
We experiment, find colors, first for the background, then the continents, the countries, the writings… And in the end, we realize that without being aware of it we have selected exactly the 6 xolors of tea for our work. Now, people often ask, whether the painting is painted with tea. In a way, yes, with tea … in our hearts, not at the brush.
Contents didn’t play a role yet in this phase. However, the designation “The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist” established as a work title during these days. Must have been about the point, when the artist and me decided to convert the initially commissioned work into a partnership project.
The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist : implemenatation
The ca. 2-weeks implementation process is characterized by the seemless interplay of a mulititude of factors and roles. The cooperation between me and the artist in this phase was dialectic, with roles alloted somewhere between clearly limited to widely blurred, level by level, element by element. At this, the perspective of the actual manual creator (too close) melted with that of the guiding spectator (too far) to a distance perceived as ideal.
However, the most unique element with the implementation of the “World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist” was the energy, in whose center the work developed. Love, passion, enthusiasm, anticipation, fulfillment, and more. We believe, one can see all this in the painting, WE can see it in the painting. And we keep meeting people, who can see it, too. However, we also keep meeting people who see nothing at all.
The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist : contents
The content dimension starts playing a role at this stage. It has to be decided, which degree of significance to attribute to which countries. Traditional producer countries, modern days producer countries, great and ancient tea cultures, cradle countries of the tea tree, all these are factors that need to be reconciled in one single scale.
And here is also, where subjectivity comes into play. Why not England? Isn’t England THE geographic placeholder for European tea culture? European tea culture? What the heck is European tea culture? And why not East Frisia? English Breakfast Tea goes Black-Red-Gold. Now, really? I’d like to put it that way… European tea culture had never been part of the scope. That is mainly, because the map had originally sunk with a tea clipper and drowned in the ocea, some time in the 19th century. That was, when it wasn’t yet clear, whether Europe would be to develop a tea culture. A status that has hardly changed eversince.
Now, that would also explain, why no New Zealand and no Australia, and why no Hawaii and Mississippi. And why not Germany, for that matter. After all, I’ve got a few tea plants here on my windowsill! All but irrelevant at the time of the sinking ship. What did drawers of marine maps know 150 years back in time of tea in New Zealand and Australia, Hawaii and Mississippi, or the tea plants on my windowsill? Naught, they knew, how how should they even?
The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist : information
All colors and contours ready, now information added. We were clear there’d be no pictures on the picture, no paintings on the painting. All information were to be symbols, i. e. text and other. Cradle countries, of the tea tree shall have a tree, all other indicated tea cultures and producer countries a “2 leves and 1 bud.” Then, what type of handwriting, what font for the header? This handwriting, that font for the header. And no, Yunnan is not a country, but still Yunnan has to go there. And again, no, Assam ain’t no country either, but it still has to go there, too.
The legend(s) is (are) written, but there is still space somewhere, empty space that was never meant to be. A pertaining survey on Facebook returns the idea of adding a basic historical timeline of tea. Said, done, ready? Not ready yet, as there was still something…. oh, yes, the latitudes! Oh, my god, this looks terrible, quickly away with those latitudes. And the ancient tea trade routes, I mean the ancient tea-horse road, and the historic seaway ’round half the world from China to Europe.
The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist : launch
Everybody is to know. So, social media… Facebook, Google+ and Co. An even is organized, on on Facebook, date and time of the revelation scheduled for Dec 01, 8 p.m. German time. Further, the work gets its dedicated Facebook page, a series of posts and newsletters, and personal notifications to all tea lovers within my contact network. And really, a lot people do signal their interest, and quite some people show excitement, even unfaked. Excitement not for a painting that one hasn’t even seen yet, but excitement for a idea that is a good one, even though – or especially as – noone else had had it before.
Day zero comes, the curtain raises, the painting is revealed. And the audiences pays applause, from polite to honest, from cautious to exuberant, from benevolent to whatever is the opposite of that.
The World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist : last words last
Now, it’s hangig here, on my wall, in my tea room, the “World Map of Tea – Painted by Artist”, the original, 1m x 0.70m. Beautiful, it is, virtually shining, in all colors of tea. The whole rooms lives from it. Sometimes, I think that every tea room should have it on one of its walls. And then again, I think that the tea rooms of this world are just as individual as the people having their tea therein.