Elisabeth Landgraf Interview – Trancing the Sacred

Daniel Mirante

Added on September 18, 2023

In the rich tapestry of life, there are those whose paths unfurl across borders, transcending the limitations of geography to embark on a deeper journey inward, navigating the fertile terrains of heritage, spirituality, and creative exploration. One such individual is the artist Elisabeth Landgraf, whose life journey weaves from the mountainous landscapes of South Korea to the bustling streets of Paris and the picturesque vistas of Scotland. A journey not just across continents, but through the realms of self-discovery, spirituality, and artistic metamorphosis, danced in the harmonious movements that breathe life into the unspoken, the unseen, and the divine. Read on to explore in her own words the life of a woman whose art and spirit transcend boundaries, a living canvas of transformative experiences, honoring the rich tapestry of Korean heritage and shamanic lineage, a testimony to the power of art, and the ever-evolving journey of self-discovery.

 Gae-cheon 개천  “Opening of Heaven ”, 2021

Can you talk about your cultural and biographical background to give some framing for your art practice?

Up to this day my true date of birth remains unclear, it was most likely given to me in one of the orphanages where I grew up. According to my adoption papers I was born on 3 October 1972 in a remote area of South Korea, a few hours away from Seoul. At the age of 10 I was adopted by a Christian family and went to live with them in the suburbs of Paris, my adoptive father was a religious person actively involved with the local church activities and my adoptive mother was a housewife. As a family we would follow religious practices.

In my late 20’s, I returned to my country of origin for the first time, it was then that I got to know part of my story. I had always thought I was an abandoned child but when I found my biological family, my eldest Korean sister informed me that our mother passed away when I was about one year-old and one month later, our father also died. We became orphans and the youngest ones, including myself, were sent to an orphanage for adoption. It was at this point that my sister told me that my date of birth shown on my passport is incorrect.

I studied foreign languages at the University of Stendhal in Grenoble (France) but after a few years, I quit my studies and I started travelling and living in different countries trying to understand myself and the world around me which did not make much sense. I lived like a nomad moving from one country to another which nurtured in me the sense of adventure, freedom and detachment to everything.

How did you begin in art? Did you pursue formal training or was it something you intuitively developed?

I have never studied art but I grew aware I was very creative and had a fine sensitivity to harmony, balance, proportions and rhythms. Over the years, I have tried different creative expressions including clothes designing and sewing, Korean paper crafts, lamps and jewellery. Throughout this period, I felt somehow lost, confused and deeply unfulfilled.

However, over the course of one single day in 2014 everything suddenly changed. I went back to live in Korea where I had a powerful spiritual experience in which the spirit of my deceased Korean mother manifested through a shaman. She told me the reason behind my adoption and revealed to me the lineage of women shamans running in my blood. My Korean mother was a devout Buddhist, my grand-mother was a shaman and my eldest Korean sister is a Buddhist shaman.

To that point I did not know anything about shamanism or spirits, however, when I started digging into it, my entire life started to make sense. As a result of this experience, I became extremely unwell, I returned to Scotland and started a healing process with shamans from different parts of the world. This is when the inspiration to paint, combined with powerful dreams and the practice of dancing came into my life. I can not talk about art and healing without mentioning my partner Davide, who has always supported and held me in a space of deep love, compassion, respect and freedom.

I spent the following three years in a sort of a trance-like state where I would simply paint, sing, dance and immerse myself in dreams. In hindsight, this strange period is when my inner child was the most alive, I never thought I was making art, I loved playing with water, pouring acrylic and being mesmerised by the reaction of paint and the visual feast of bright colours dancing on different surfaces, canvasses, boards or any kind of smooth materials where I could paint.

At that time, I discovered two painters who deeply inspired and touched my soul. The first was Rassouli, an Iranian-born Sufi mystic painter and the second Leigh MacCloskey, a Renaissance-man. I was transported by their art, they were also truly inspiring human beings with a profoundly wise perspective and philosophy of life. These two artists fuelled my desire to know more about painting and to bring to life my inner world of spirits and my creative imagination. I was searching for a way to explore in more depth the art of painting when I discovered Olga Klimova and Daniel Mirante’s art, more specifically his painting “Chanting down Babylon”. This is when I joined the visionary art seminar in Torri, Italy in 2019. A year later, I came across Oleg A. Korolev’s art for the first time and his paintings. The energy I felt through his artwork as well as his skills made me want to learn directly from him, so I took private lessons for a short while which helped me gain a deeper understanding of painting.

I practice different types of creative expressions and painting is one of them. I also practice Korean calligraphy, abstract art with dance and movement, whirling, shamanic dance and recently I started exploring performative arts. Although all these practices seem to be different from a certain perspective, they are expressions of the inner journey into the mystery of Creation and the intimate relationship with the creative power of Spirit honouring the legacy of my Korean ancestors and giving voice to all that is real but unseen, unsensed and unperceived.

Elisheva “ Oath of God” , 2021

Can you touch on what your art means for you?

Due to multiple traumas, I spent many decades “living outside of my body” surviving in the physical realm but sensing, perceiving and living in the spiritual and energetic realm. My paintings are attempts to bring back into this realm what the soul journeyed through during all these years in a way that can be perceived, seen and experienced. The practice of painting allows me to explore imaginatively aspects of the unconscious to reveal and honour the divine forces, deities, spirits. It also nurtures an intimate relationship with the chaotic creative impulses as well as a profound love for mystery.

Central to my art and the way I perceive life is the influence of the concept of MU. MU derives from China and it stands for “absence of” or “ not”, but it also means “pure awareness prior to knowledge or experience”. The ideogram MU is represented by two people separated by a vertical pole with a line placed above and one below, symbolising Heaven and Earth. The vertical pole separating the two people is believed to be the Cosmic Tree of Life. MU 무 in korea also means shaman, such as in MUdang 무당.

This Cosmic Tree of Life is tied with the creation myth of Korea and the founder Dangun. Curiously, the date of birth that I was given is the day of the creation myth which is celebrated as the “Opening of Heaven day” on 3 October every year. According to some scholars with much evidence to support this theory, the founder of Korea Dangun is also believed to be tied with the birth of Korean shamanism.

I live my life as a series of mysterious adventures, as I go deeper and wider in my artistic, creative practices along with trauma work, I aspire to celebrate and honour life in a way that is authentic, connected and inspired ( to breathe the fire of Grace unto the soul, this is the meaning of the word “inspire”)

“ I am. MU”, 2023


Daniel Mirante is a painter, historian, scholar, teacher and writer.

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