Per Tonstad talking with Henrik Nolte at an Acem retreat
He has moved from applied to fine art, from black-and-white to colour, from ink and pencil to watercolour, and from hard lines to sensitive images with a psychological depth. I met German artist Henrik Nolte at the 2011 international summer retreat.
Last August The Meditation Blog posted some reflections on the paintings of the Berlin artist Henrik Nolte. The paintings had gone from black and white to colour, we were told, with an increasing sensitivity, coupled with humour and a sharp edge.
At the time, the artist had just returned to Germany after participating in a summer retreat at Acem’s international retreat centre Halvorsbøle in Norway. That’s where I met him, and this is what he told me:
The summer retreat has been good for me. Meditating for several hours has given me insights. I experience more directly the potential of meditation. Meditating, talking, walking and just being together with people from so many different countries is a superb form of vacation!
“I can do this alone”
It has been interesting to follow his own painter’s blog afterwards. Most of his recent pictures are accompanied by short texts, some of which spell out a psychological theme already present in the picture, as in the painting on the right, called “Angst & Iciness”.
In other cases, the connection between picture and text is less obvious, but still has a deepening effect, as in “I can do this alone” to the right.
Peace and quiet
Like me, Henrik liked the surroundings at Halvorsbøle:
They remind me of the area where I grew up in Westfalen in Germany. I love the peace and quiet of the countryside.
Although most of his paintings are of people, his love of nature also now and then shows up in his watercolours:
This one is accompanied by the German saying “Ein gutes Gewissen ist ein sanftes Ruhekissen”, more or less translatable as “A clean conscience is a good pillow”.
I asked Henrik how he got in contact with Acem. As so often nowadays, Google played a central role:
I had been practising Autogenic Training and Aikido since the mid-1990s, and I had also experimented with self-hypnosis, Qi Gong, and different meditation techniques. I wanted to find a meditation group where I could discuss experiences with others. I visited some Buddhist groups in Berlin. But I never became keen on all the religious ceremonies, so I googled “non-religious meditation group” and immediately found Acem. I joined an introductory course in Berlin in 2010 and have been meditating regularly ever since. I also join meetings at Acem’s venue in Berlin whenever I can.
The first thing he noticed was that his sleep improved a lot. And contrary to much current “wisdom”, he found it unnecessary to make his mind empty:
Relaxation doesn’t mean getting rid of disturbing thoughts. On the contrary, in Acem Meditation you open the mind for whatever is there. You learn how to cope with stress, not to suppress it. There is a certain naturalness to Acem, and that’s what I like so much.
“Short of breath”
One of his latest paintings is simply called “Atemnot”, which roughly translates as “Short of breath”.
After many years of working with cartoon video imaging and directing, he has moved from applied art to fine art and feels he is able to express himself more freely now. There may be times when he feels stressed and “short of breath”, and sometimes short of money too. Meditation, though inexpensive, hardly helps for the money part, but it has often helped him regain his breath and his calm.
When we parted after the retreat, he said he would be back soon. I am looking forward to seeing him again. Maybe in the summer of 2012?