I was born and raised in Cyprus, on the ruins of an early Christian basilica. All around me, there were fields of wheat, bamboos, grasses, flowers, marshes and the sea. Roman mosaic villas, Theatres, Orthodox Churches and scattered marble and granite Columns with Corinthian capitals.
I spent my holidays at my grandparents house on one of the oldest copper mines on the island of Cyprus. Right by the entrance of this house, there were beehives and a garden full of flowers. All around, the smell of sulfur and minerals.
In my world as a child, there were no galleries or museums. Only icons, frescoes, the colours of nature, the sea, sulfur and copper and the women in my life with the prints on their dresses or headscarves, the weaving on the loom and the crocheted bedspreads.
Studying at the Tourist Guide’s School was the pivoting point of my life.
For, everything I loved and experienced in my life, came together. All this culture, colour, smell and beauty, had to surround me, needed to comfort me and be the platform for my spiritual voyages. Be, my language and tool of communication. Be, the platform and spring board from which I could share new experiences and voyages with other people.
As an adult, I travelled extensively abroad to visit numerous museums, galleries, churches, monuments and archaeological sites. I studied and researched other cultures, traditions, beliefs and civilisations.
However, the opportunity to pick up pigments and brushes came much later into my life. Like Ulysses, I had to survive my own voyage before reaching Ithaca.
In the year 2000, I decided to dedicate my life to Art. The canvas became my spiritual platform for a new, unknown and exciting voyage. All that I ever loved, I could now bring back through image. I could jump on the petal of a flower and sense the smell. Have as many woven or printed fabrics as I wished. I could paint my self-portrait in suffering or joy and rediscover myself. I could stand with reverence once more in front of the icon colours or the mystery of the portraits of Fayum. I could keep the turquoise blue of the Mediterranean in my hands or smell the sulfur in the copper. I could relive the copper age with its talanta and rituals and revisit the Xoana and the Idols. I could now stroll amongst the burnt grasses and wheat fields of my land.
So much was given to me, that I felt the need to give back. Felt the urgence to bend over my canvas, embrace it and become one with it. Embrace it and labour hard. First with brushes, pigments, newspapers, mixed media and adhesive.
And twelve years ago, as the memory of the beehives, the Fayums and the early Christian Icons haunted me again, I started to work on wood with Beeswax, Damar, Pigments and Fire. The Fire that burned within me all these years and needed to come out. The Pigments like the Green Earth of Cyprus, the Terre Verte de Chypre found in the womb of my land. This very colour that caps the dome of the Federal Palace in Bern. This same colour that together with copper became for me the binding colour symbol between my natal country Cyprus and my adopted country Switzerland.
Anna Achilleos Stäubli