JULE KORNEFFEL + YOGA
JULE KORNEFFEL + YOGA
The painter on another important modality in her life and how it keeps her going.
What initially kicked off your yoga practice, and what made you stick with it?
So, I always thought, “I'm not that person. I don't do yoga,” because everyone was talking about it as such a fashion thing. I'm from a very sporting background, and one side of my family was totally into tennis – I had a tennis champion in the family – and the other side was into soccer. I played both. It was a social thing in the village where I grew up. Then I switched to gymnastics, which reminds me so much of yoga. You have to have this rising and grounding while you move. Otherwise, you fall. You have to be in the flow.
When painting took over my life, I became more immobile; I didn't do any sport. Back in Germany, I studied with a yoga & pilates group for five years in an intimate circle where I built my conscious introspection, body-mind connectedness, and focus on breathing. But, this is more difficult in New York: I have to commute to a studio, which takes so much time. And then I have to get on the subway again after class. It makes you raise your defenses again after relaxing.
After the pandemic arrived, we had to stay home and isolate, and I became much less active. Fortunately, a friend told me about a yoga app. I had been so down, but that is when it totally clicked. All the experiences formed by my childhood activities came back. It all came together on my mat at home. Yoga is a great tool to access my ideas and highly developed imagination [laughs].
I usually roll out my mat in the evening before bed and start right in the morning. Of course, I have to push to do it. It’s a lot of work, so I'm allowed to make a coffee or a cappuccino and have a cookie [laughs]. It's not true yogi style, I know. Sometimes, after a hard day, I might even have a glass of wine or some chips as I do it. It's a Taurus style of yoga [laughs]. Do you know when you line up to check out at Trader Joe's? I started to do the tree pose while I was waiting. It really took over. I also do yoga at my studio.
We should have gotten a picture of you last time we were in your studio! That would have been so great.
Yes, but it might not have been as much of a practice for me then. It started two and a half years ago, and it has just grown and grown. I also felt that success in my painting, which encouraged me to explore that work more. But there was a certain moment when it became automatic. I have a process-based painting practice, but if I want to shift or open a new door where it feels like I can enter unknown territory, I have to move first. My yoga isn't beautiful; it's more about having a feeling.
You described some of the things yoga gives you that were similar or in alignment with other movement practices you've had in the past. What does yoga offer you that stands out as very different from those things?
What I like is that it is so simple, in a way. It feels a bit like archetypes. With my artwork, I think a lot about old stuff and tradition: transmitted wisdom or knowledge, like old masters' recipes or alchemy. Doing a tree with your body feels truly connected. I feel like having this awareness of your space and boundaries is so emotional and old, and that clicked on a mental level. I can't really describe it, but it's a sense of interconnectedness across time. That's on a parallel track with painting.
With painting, I feel like I have to go through so much study, and I feel like you have to know about the tradition when engaging with such a traditional medium. Yoga became such a tool because there's this interconnected experience with my painting practice. With each practice, I have my individual flow.
For me, it's about the figure and its movements, which is why I enjoy yoga classes. I don't know if you've heard, but ancient dancing supposedly comes from aligning the body with the stars. Maybe that's going too far, but these universal languages are always things that trigger me beyond the physical movement.
You mentioned you mainly work with an app. Are there any other specific yoga props you use and recommend?
I have a Manduka mat. It is so soft and has a certain amount of stickiness that makes it great to work with and move on compared to other mats. It's a similar thing with painting materials: If you have good stuff, you can do so much better.
I thought I could save money on yoga blocks by using my books instead (I'm from abroad and conscious about accumulating things.) My studio is already very crowded, and I like to keep it minimal at home, so I don't always invest much in my belongings. I have a friend who is very much into yoga, and I told her how I love the half-moon pose, and that I tried to do the crow but couldn't. Of course, she was like, "Well, well, well, if you had the right blocks, that would help you. You should consider." I checked them out, but ended up not buying them – it simply seemed like too much stuff. Then she gave them to me for my birthday! It was a real game-changer.
We all have those elusive movements that are hard, but I hope it comes! My last question is: Do you have any hopes for your practice, anything you'd like to achieve?
Yeah, I want to do this damn crow pose [laughs]. I tell myself it's about the flow because otherwise, I know I won’t ever do it. I can’t get too ambitious. I'm always a little bit aware of getting ahead of what you are actually able to do. But I really want to do the crow. I want to do the full wheel [pose]. I want to do the freestanding handstand on my mat.
But this idea of being flexible and grounded – I hope to push that until I'm 100 years old. It’s the same with painting. I felt like they have this dialectic, right? In full flow or balance. I discovered over the past few years that I feel that this tension can go on forever. I don't really have the words for it. It's access to a universal language. It’s like how nature speaks to us.
All my influences, all my studies, all my life experiences are merging into one through harmony and observation of natural shapes and organic movements. And what I experienced in painting is how it evolves so organically. It's an interesting place to be. Both painting and yoga are these traditions. I'm really interested in that.