Embracing Yellow

rsz_1pollen_bee_500You can’t miss Yellow! Its a stand-out colour and tends to polarise people into “I can’t stand yellow” and “I love yellow” divisions. Personally I love Yellow but I’m thinking in terms of sunflowers and daffodils rather than things like highway signs and “no-passing” lines!

My SO introduced me to a totally new take on Yellow – a photo in a book of a man producing a large artwork from pollen. This seemed beyond belief but a search on the Web yielded plenty of information about Wolfgang Laib (from Metzingen, Southern Germany).

For a blast of Yellow take a look at two excellent photos of his 2013 MoMA pollen installation at the designboom website.

Wolfgang Laib collects the pollen himself and has done this since 1977.  What really grabbed my attention was his response to people wondering where he got the idea from. He relates the following in this video Pollen From Hazelnut:

“If I look back … its the intense experience of studying 6 years medicine, and seeing the hospitals… seeing sick people, ah, experiencing death. Then of course this has to do all with life… pollen is the beginning of life.

I think… I think it was the answer to all what I had seen before that… this pollen jar’s the concentration of all this 27 years.

The essence of all your experience is coming into an artwork. It is as simple as that but is also as complicated as that.”

He explains his relationship with pollen and then the video goes on to show him creating his work at MoMA and finishing the installation.

Bee with pollen

The truth is, I don’t think seeing a pollen installation on its own without knowing the philosophy behind it would have had nearly the impact on me.

I share here another quote from the video:

“People know me as making something this year like the same thing which I made 30 years ago. Not many others have the courage to do that. For me that was very important, that I would collect the same pollen, this year like 30 years ago. I find that a very, very important statement… in… in this world where everything has to change every second.”


“It is very rare that you can see a pollen piece from so far above. And that was always very beautiful… this distance… like you are looking down… [here he laughs or chuckles] not into hell but into heaven!”

If you enjoyed the video “Pollen From Hazelnut” I can recommend this other video for which you need to set aside around 20 mins of uninterrupted time. Wolfgang Laib discusses in much greater detail the philosophy behind his art and describes what I would call his own personal pilgrimage from childhood through to medical school and his path from there. In this video you can see him again working with pollen but also working with beeswax to create fabulous golden beeswax rooms. He also reveals that the MoMA pollen installation used pollen collected from a period of 15 – 18 seasons!

There’s more information and photos of Wolfgang Laib’s work at this Sperone Westwater website. Of particular interest to me were photos of his large art installations made of beeswax. There’s also a short bio from which I learned that in 2015, Laib was awarded the Praemium Imperiale award for sculpture. There is further bio information at the Praemium Imperiale website.

I’ll be honest and say that when I originally saw the photo in a book of a man making a pollen installation I wasn’t hugely interested. As I learned more about the man, who he is and where he’s come from and what this means to him, I appreciated that this is so much more than just an art installation.

I want to wrap this up by quoting from the final part of the second video:

“I began these works in this small village in Southern Germany for myself. I was like 27 or so and I had the first pollen jars, I had the first milkstones. I felt this is the most important thing in the world [laughs]… this will change the world. I was extremely naive.

I had this strive to show this as soon as possible, to as many people as possible in the world.

My idea of exhibitions in showing this was about this…  I felt this is the essence of life and this is somehow something which holds the world together; it was not about becoming a famous artist. It was really I felt… this is what I searched in medicine and somehow I did not find it in the medical science.

I feel I never changed my profession. I did with these things what I wanted to do as a doctor.”

Words by Exploring Colour (2017). Top photo from Pablo. Bottom photo from Pixabay.


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