Ernst Fuchs Friend and Mentor
On the 9th of November 2015 Professor Ernst Fuchs, painter, sculptor, poet, architect, poet, musician, teacher & mentor to many passed away in Vienna, Austria.
I met Ernst Fuchs for the first time in 2007 when I entered the doors of the
Apocalypse Chapel in Klagenfurt, Austria..Surrounding us were murals
depicting the visions of the Apocalypse, rendered in full spectral
colour. Biblical patriarchs and angels woven in with scenes of
modern-day life; cities, astronauts and flowering celestial gardens.
For twenty years countless artists had lent their hand to assist
Professor Fuchs with this commissioned project.
Ernst climbed down off the scaffolding and my friend Amanda Sage
introduced us. Amanda told him that I was the young Polish artist who
had arrived from Australia, eager to work as a painting assistant.
I was struck by his strong presence and energy field. I read in
the lines of his face the story of one who had lived a full life;
etched in were all its triumphs, joys and sorrows. His energy was a
cross between the powerful, vital/animal forces and the fiery angelic
influences which guided his work. I had the impression that he knew
that life was a dream and approached it with the same flair and
fluidity he would exercise in one of his paintings.
He spoke to us – ‘Not all men are created equal’. He went on to
explain how we are each given different gifts to use and apply in
life. He asserted that in this place, he was the ‘Capitan’, the
conductor of this orchestra in which we were now invited to play.
Motioning towards the paints and brushes he pointed to an area of the
mural to work on. I was immediately plunged into what was to become an
unforgettable six month apprenticeship with the greatest teacher I
could have hoped to find.
I assisted Ernst on projects in Klagenfurt, Monte Carlo and
Vienna. His work ethic and dedication deeply impressed me. I was open
and receptive, trying learn as much as I possibly could, so I made
the decision to be humble and keep quiet. I learnt mostly by being in
his presence and by observation. I can almost hear his voice
expressively booming some verse in German, then switching to convey
the esoteric meaning behind some Old Testament passage or any other
thing which may have floated through his mind at the time.
In Klagenfurt he generously offered me and Amanda his room and
made us feel at home. His paternal love extended not only to his
countless biological children but also to his painting assistants. On
one occasion his patience was tested when I accidentally bumped the
scaffolding right next to the ‘Angel of History’ mural. A large glass
jar filled with dirty grey turpentine spilled all over the mural and
crashed to the ground. I ran for my life (and to get the mop) as he
exploded in a short-lived rage. We managed to clean and rescue the
work from what could have been quite disastrous. He was however
usually very tolerant of people from all walks of life and gave his
apprentices much freedom to express and grow under his watchful eye..
I was 24 years old during this time and had traveled to Europe
following the calling of my heart to expand my knowledge of the Old
Master painting tradition and also to retrace my family history.
My parents had lived in Vienna, emigrating there from Poland
before I was born and then settling in Melbourne, Australia. Arriving
now in Vienna I sat on a park bench and cried tears of gratitude
realising that I was now exactly where I needed to be in life. A
fateful email from Amanda Sage had led to many doors and opportunities
opening. She had been living in Vienna for a decade and had worked as
an assistant to both Ernst and his son Michael Fuchs.
During that summer Amanda introduced me to the mixed egg tempera and
oil painting technique; this being the approach we most often applied
while painting in the Chapel.
From left: Martin Blomohr, Ernst Fuchs, Kuba Ambrose, Amanda Sage, Chris Gertez
In Vienna I was given a room at the Otto Wagner Villa, or the
‘Fuchs Villa’ as it was known to us. Together with another Viennese
artist I worked on some of Ernst’s large scale works in a auction
house called Auteno. Soon the cold of the winter set in and after nine
months abroad I felt the desire to return home to Australia.
The 9 months stay in Europe was a rebirth for me on many levels.
I had discovered my soul’s purpose and rediscovered who I was. . Back
in Melbourne I was surprised that my correspondence and tuition with
Ernst seemed to continue in the dream realm.
Ernst also visited a number of my friends and family members,
most of whom had never met him before.
I came to understand that Ernst Fuchs is part of a collective
soul group, not confined to any particular epoch or location, sent
here on a special mission to integrate certain artistic styles and to
re-enliven the tradition of sacred devotional art. I perceived that
his passion was for uniting the truths of Christian mysticism with the
roots of the Hebrew tradition, in a way that reconciled his faith with
I am grateful to have found a teacher who understood and
portrayed many of the stories and truths which I had also grown up
with, through the lens of beauty and profound artistic vision.
Ernst taught me about dedication, craftsmanship,surrender,
service and that life is endless improvisation. In a dream he told me
– ‘Live your life with passion and paint with love’.
He understood that Creator gives to each and everyone certain
talents and gifts and that we need to honour our gifts by developing
and applying them.
His creative mind entered the fields of painting, drawing,
architecture, music, furniture and product design, poetry and theatre,
embracing and enhancing these forms by his inexhaustible creativity.
His life made manifest the dream of a ‘complete art’ of which both
Steiner and Goethe had written.
The manifold gifts which this man has left behind will continue
to enrich and influence our culture and the earth arts for centuries