I have always enjoyed creating. It never really mattered what medium I used. It could be carving a wooden stick in the midst of a forest or drawing at the kitchen table after coming home from school. Anything really that involved creating with my hands, would give me a sense of joy and peace at the same time. Somewhere along the way – because of all the head work we are encouraged to do at school,  the focus on academic reward and productivity, I suspect – I lost touch with my creative part and forgot about how crucial it was for me to live creativity and give it space in my day. When a personal crisis hit me at age 31, I remembered art. I longed for it, I remembered how it felt but it took some time to dig it out and integrate it into my life again. I had to consciously create space for making, building, writing, drawing, painting, and experimenting on a daily basis. It wasn’t easy, it took dedication and discipline to regain confidence and figure out what I was interested in. 

Creating with nature on your side

If I look back, the things I was interested in drawing and painting when I first reconnected with my creative part, are the things that still occupy my mind today. I drew horses, and photographed landscapes: nature abounds. In my early artistic explorations, I tried to talk about the biased human-animal relationship.  The what has actually always been pretty clear on a deeper level. The hardest part, I find, is the how. Having the courage and persistence to find ways of expressing, and translating things into art, is what I generally find hard to do. Especially artworks that I like looking at myself.

Unmensch (Non-Human). Exploring intersections between human and non-human creatures with materials such as acrylic and oil. Courtesy of the artist.

After having uncovered the what, I was on my way to exploring the how, when I noticed that the materials I was using to make art were not in line with what I was talking about in my artistic work. My work aims to talk about equality, about human and non-human beings, about what we have in common, and what connects us, despite our differences. That’s all I’m interested in, really. I am in a constant process of discovering this complex multitude of connections and entanglements. That’s what I investigate, read, explore, think, and obsess about. How can I talk about this, -with the intention to raise awareness, mindfulness, and respect for noun human beings – while using materials that work against nature, that harm human and non-human life?

I first came in touch with the idea of making natural colors, when working on a project during my Bachelors in Art Education that explored ways to upcycle clothes in order to live more sustainably.  Within this context, I experimented with dying fabric with homemade dyes, using kitchen waste like avocado and onion peels. In my latest artwork, I dipped my toe into the world of fungi. I read about the curious and fascinating ways in which fungi operate and the effects and influences they have on human and non-human beings. I started out using acrylic paint and using a foundation for my canvas that again was made of some synthetic materials. It just didn’t feel right. I felt like a hypocrite. Here I am talking about all the ways we are connected with other beings, using stuff that is toxic and has a negative effect on the environment that these beings and ourselves live in.

So I spent a lot of time figuring out how to make my own ink, paint, and printing paste. I learned about making lake pigments and turning them into paint. I experimented with making my own binder too. Despite my continuous trials and errors, my printing past is not yet usable, as it is still very experimental and uncontrollable.

Stepping back to the roots

Because making natural colors takes a lot of time – hours of cooking, stirring, filtering, watering, refiltering, drying, grinding, mixing, just to gain an inkling of material – it made me realize what a precious resource paint is and made me question how I used it. Before making my own ink and pigments, I loved making big paintings, never bothering about how much material they needed. I would just go out and buy more if it ran out… But now I started to question what size my work really needed to be and use my ink more consciously. In part, this is what my latest artwork “homebody” speaks about. It’s about slowing down, paying attention to what’s around us. Grounding us, stopping us from our busy lives. Sitting down and observing. Holding still. Becoming still. Going within. Reconnecting with non-human beings. I didn’t intend it, but I think the aspect of time is visible and noticeable in the work, because of the time it took me to make the ink. So in a way, the material seems to have its own energy and contributes to the work just as much as the visual does. Now, I want to dive deeper into making my own colors and work on my printing paste. It feels like I’ve only just taken the first steps on this exciting journey. And there’s no way back, only going deeper into how to create sustainably.

A bridge to the other

It seems to me we are more connected and dependent on non-human beings than we realize and might like to be. Working on my project “homebody” made me aware of how dependent we are on beings we hardly ever think about. I learned that plants only developed because of fungi and that our life on earth would not be possible, at least not recognizable without them. Only about 10 percent of the cells in our body are human. The rest are non-human microbiomes (bacteria and fungi). These have an influence on our health as well as on our moods. I see a direct connection between the environmental challenges we are facing today and our lack of awareness and respect towards other human and non-human beings. If we fail to see the interdependence amongst all participants of life, we’re likely to make choices that might at first harm others but are prone to come back at us. What you do to the other, you do to the self. What you do to the self, you do to the other.

In my work, I hope to create a bridge to others. To share my realization, my sense of knowing, that all is connected. That it is crucial to see non-human beings as worthy and that every form of life needs to be treated with respect for their life. That no life is more important than another. No one is above any form of life, no one is below any form of life. We’re connected and dependent on one another. It’s a fragile network. We need to remember our connection to nature, to human and non-human beings, and create space for everyone. 

For me, art has the quality of a verb rather than a noun. It does something to us. It speaks to the non-rational part of us and our intuition. Sometimes interacting with art can hit me on a level beyond words and create a bodily understanding. To me, it’s a form of connecting with other beings and their truths and emotions. It’s a crucial way of communicating, that everyone can take part in, not only a chosen few. Art bears the power to connect us to others as well as to ourselves.


In her early thirties, Vivianne Koller transitioned from advertising and teaching to pursuing art. With the support of her husband, she now resides in Zurich, immersing herself in studying art and merging topics such as sustainability, non-human perspectives, and creativity.


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