‘Once the soul was perfect and had wings, it could sour into haven that only creatures with wings can be. But the soul lost its wings and fell to earth where it took an earthly body.  Now, while it lives in this body no outward sign of wings can be seen yet the roots of its wings are still there… And we see a beautiful woman or a man, the soul remembers the beauty it used to know in haven, and begins to spout and that makes the soul want to fly but it cannot yet it is still too weak so that man keeps staring up to the sky at a young bird, he lost all interest in the world around…’ (T. Malick, ‘The Knight Of Cups’)


© Gabriele Viertel, Merit Award of Best of Contemporary Photography 2015, Fort Wayne Museum



© Gabriele Viertel

What is the reason that a certain kind of art has got the ability to touch us deeply, move the roots of our humanity, steal our hearts, leave us breathless?  A sensational movie ‘The Knight Of Cups’ (2015) by Terence Malick and the  philosophical journey that I experienced thanks to it, brought some answers that I want to share with you.

In the movie there is poetry of existence; its unwieldiness  and spontaneity, rejecting mummified conventions and  structures foreign to it.The surrealism and paradox of choices made throughout the years. The phenomenon of life is in excess of every frame, yet Malick dares to leap into the flux and  follow its rhythms.

Floating in the water and diving ‘in the great divide’ has been one of very important, and reoccurring motifs of this Malick’s movie.

According to the major figure in the history of philosophy – Thales, water was the fundamental material of the universe, something out of which everything else could be formed. Something essential to life, and capable of motion and therefore – to change. And as we all know – water has been and will always be the inspiration not only for the philosophers or movie directors – but also for writers, poets and visual artist.

The unique, photo-like structure of the film I’ve recently seen,  brought to my mind ‘The Underwater Collection’ called ‘Follow Me To The Depths’ by fine Art Photographer Gabriele Viertel. I have seen those works many month ago – but the images kept ‘hanging on’ in my mind – and I knew the time will come when I come back to them.


(c) Gabriele Viertel

Few weeks ago I had the pleasure to meet  Gabriele  when I was in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. As a matter of fact her works have been appreciated and recognized worldwide, published by Vogue Italia, Cosmopolitan and the  Museum of Modern Art San Fransisco. Artists work is in the public collections of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Indiana USA and the University of Art, Rotterdam NL as well as in various private collections.

Regardless of the international success and popularity – one thing is sure – Gabriele’s photography makes you stop and stare. It moves you in a unique way– inviting you to visit a different space where there is no time and where a perfect, strangely exciting  female beauty (femme fatale or an angel?) that approaches  you – in the movements that reminds you an elegant dance.

Looking into the photography by this German artist means a fascinating encounter with mystical creatures. The unworldly, underwater compositions bring to mind the artworks of the symbolists, the most famous Art Nouveau painters ( popular between 1890 and 1910), for example of  Fernand Khnopff or Franz von Stuck.


Franz Von Stuck, ‘The Dancers’, 1986, Private Collection

Similarly to the subject matters that were beautifully explored 100 years ago – Gabriele presents elegant, sublime and mystical women, making the viewer want to uncover the enigmatic truths hidden behind appearances.


Franz Von Stuck, ‘Sin’, 1893, Private Collection

Salome Stuck.jpg

Franz Von Stuck , ‘Salome II’, 1906, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus – Munich  

Viertel’s art challenges the viewers what it is that they really see. Are the models the modern mermaids that live deep under the water or beautiful nymphs that are floating in the cosmic space? Or – perhaps, are they dancers that are too busy to notice the onlooker ?

The intense, sublime and introverted subject matters reflect Gabriele’s own personality – packed with ethereal energy, original talent and fresh ideas that come from fairy tales, the world of fashion (Gabriele used to be a catwalk model for the designers such as Dior or Karl Lagerfeld)  and fascination of the artist with the female beauty and classical dance styles.


(c) Gabriele Viertel

Before our my meeting I exchanged few mails with Gabriele and got to learn about more recent work.  What my eyes got to see were the sensational, very expressive underwater portraits of two female figures. This how the  images talked to me: ‘‘If we are to live exposed to one another, we must admit that part of our identity originates in our vulnerability’ (Achille Mhebe).


Fernand Knopff, Study for ‘Caress’, 1896

The mesmerizing beauty of the models made me think of the emotions their faces and gestures expressed. To me those artworks present an essence of ‘the togetherness and vulnerability’. We observe two beautiful creatures living happily in their underwater world,  caressing each other, telling each other secrets and stories. They are ‘at peace and harmony’, reaching the intimate closeness, physically and spiritually, sharing the pure and divine love that Malick beautifully spoke of in his movie:

You gave me peace. You gave me what the world can’t give. Mercy. Love. Joy. All else is cloud. Mist. Be with me. Always.’


(c) Gabriele Viertel


(c) Gabriele Viertel

When I  first came across the photos of Gabriele Viertel – I was so fascinated with it,  that I decided to show them to the Amsterdam based poet,  Elly de Waard . To my growing excitement Elly was very enthusiastic about the artworks that she did not know before and allowed me to publish one of her poems from the collection called ‘Nine poems from a sequence of eighty-two’ that I found very ‘corresponding’ with Viertels art.


So beautiful, the way her

Naked body leaps through the

Breakers, her breasts high, her arms

An extension of her back

Reach up. Beneath her skin like

Still never developed

Wings that want to open


Out I see her shoulder blades

Moving briskly. An un-

Disfigured Venus she is,

Rising from the marbled

Foam, alive. Ah, how sweet

The way her softness

Withstands the muscled waves! She

Holds her hands in front of the

Hollows with wiry hair. Rocks


Kneel down before her, resting

Against each other offering

The masterfully polished

Forms of their backs to

Her. In sculpting their masses


The polisher of the tides needed his

Eons, but nature was able

To create her perfection

In a brief thirty-one years.

(c) Elly de Waard


(c) Gabriele Viertel

There is no doubt – the Art by Gabriele Viertel does know how to put spell on your heart. It is like a beautiful, rare pearl at the bottom of the ocean waiting to be found. This art challenges you – telling you that the perfect beauty does exist. It encourages you to look beyond the surfaces and search for  the beauty that surrounds you in the ‘real world’. The atmosphere of a magical dream  brings delight, it makes you want to unfold the mystery that the life is full of.

So this is how art never ceases to amaze, teach and inspire us. The soul of an artist is a soul that has found its wings and does remember beauty, as if had no other choice:


‘I must see new things and investigate them.
I want to taste dark water and see crackling trees and wild winds’ 

 Egon Schiele