VINDOBONA ALTARPIECE III
Snakes and Ladders
A detailed history of this drawing and background stories
Graphite Drawing on Arches Etching Paper ‐ 65cm x 48cm ‐ 1994
Private Collection, Austria
photo by David Rossiter
This drawing is the third in a series. It is a follow‐up to a diptych that I had worked on years earlier, called Vindobona Altarpiece I and II. Working from right to left on both of these previous pieces (I am left handed) the first panel of this previous work was began in 1981, but not completed until 1993, whereas the second panel was started and completed already in 1980.
These pieces had never been exhibited together. Vindobona Altarpiece II was bought by a collector in Austria before much of the first panel had been drawn.
Graphite Drawing on Paper ‐ 76cm x 56cm ‐ 1981 to 1993
Private Collection Austria
Eventually, Vindobona Altarpiece I was left unfinished in 1981. I never picked it up again until 1993 when I completed it. It was then shown at my solo exhibition “Art of the Mystic” at the Prairie Art Gallery in Grande Prairie, Alberta in June 1994.
Following that, I began work on Vindobona Altarpiece III ‐ Snakes and Ladders, which I completed the same year. It was never shown in Canada: I basically stopped exhibiting after 1996 and only began to show again in 2010, after some urging, participating in a group exhibition in Portugal with one painting. Since then, I started exhibiting regularly, both solo and in groups. (Curriculum Vitae ).
Graphite Drawing on Paper ‐ 76cm x 56cm ‐ 1980
Private Collection Austria
Some of my sources
Solitude , 1890, oil on canvas, 72" x 36"
by Otto Rapp
I once read the book by Françoise Gilot, Life with Picasso, as well as many other books about Pablo Picasso, but this one made a particular impact on me and some funny stories in it had inspired another painting of mine some 4 years prior to this drawing, called Pablo’s Last Concert. So in this drawing, I ‘recycled’ the eye of Pablo again, watching over the scene:
While in my paintings the technique of Decalcomania had been employed since the seventies, I began in this drawing to use a kneaded eraser to pick up and transfer textures to the paper, something that 2 decades later I developed further in my most recent drawings (combining it with frottage and other methods). So in a way, this marks a new period, even though that I was not very active for the next 10 years following, and only began intensive work when I returned to Austria in 2011.
Exploring the History behind these drawings
When I was a child, my grandfather, a very scholarly and educated man who loved art and rare books, took me to exhibitions in Vienna. Some of those were of the young artists of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism. There was no TV or any other distractions back then: when I visited my grandfather, he always had a stack of paper and sharpened pencils ready for me. I already then entered into my solitary dream world building my own little universe in the drawings I then produced. Artists I’ve seen these days were Helmut Leherb, Ernst Fuchs, Rudolf Hausner and others I only recognized by name later, when I began my research.
I would go to the Akademie der Bildenden Künste and walk the halls of the Art Collection, but also peeked into the studios and watched.
I left Austria, still a teenager, and moved to Sweden, and several years later to Canada. But I took my heritage with me, starting to research in depth this fascinating Vienna School. I did not paint well yet while I lived in Sweden, but I had always excelled in drawing. In Canada, my painting began to become more accomplished, and along with my drawing, I started to exhibit my work, which found many collectors already in the early seventies.
At that time, in conjunction with a new Fine Arts Building, it was proposed to open the building with an international show. Since I had already started to write a paper about the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, I proposed to hold an exhibition. Travelling to Vienna, I contacted Prof. Rudolf Hausner, whom I met at his residence in Mödling in 1980.
Travelling to Vienna, I contacted Prof. Rudolf Hausner, whom I met at his residence in Mödling in 1980.
I should mention that at that time I was also very much influenced by Ernst Fuchs, and had a deep appreciation for Max Ernst.
At that time, I was rather anxious about being seen as ‘derivative’, but he jovially said to me that it was ‘very good brushwork’ and about the theme and composition he said something to the effect of ‘this is no great state secret ‐ we published this (to inspire)’. Hausner, and also Fuchs, along with my earlier fascination of the Surrealists such as Max Ernst and Dali, had a recurrent presence in some of my work.
Hausner’s Adam peeked into my paintings of that day, and in my drawing took on a dominant position in this, my ultimate tribute piece to the Vienna School ‐ Vindobona Altarpiece III ‐ where he lords it over the central portion on a dark banner that stands above the scene like a sail.
As mentioned before, this drawing was not exhibited in Grande Prairie at my solo show since I only worked on it after, but a few months later, in October 1994 I entered a painted mailbox for a gallery fundraiser, titled “Rudi, schreib mal” ‐ thinking that our exchange of letters had stopped years ago. A year later, he passed away.
The Influence of Ernst Fuchs
Of course here I would have to emphasize the considerable influence that Prof. Ernst Fuchs had on my work for as long as I can remember.
The inspiration for this image I found in Ernst Fuchs 1951 etching ‘Die Zeugung des Einhorns’.
Drawing this image by ‘channeling’ Fuchs seemingly helped improve my skills.
I couldn’t help including a little self portrait beneath the entanglement of the Unicorn with the ‘snakes’.
Some I found particularly interesting, such as Karl Korab; an image inspired by him found it’s way into the drawing as well.
A detail of a deformed gnome came from a Roman marble I had seen somewhere in an art history book. I had utilized it before already once in an etching.
check out the zoom image of VINDOBONA ALTARPIECE III on my website
The question remains: What does it all mean?
All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you hope to climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner, and for every snake a ladder will compensate.
All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you hope to climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner, and for every snake a ladder will compensate. But it's more than that; no mere carrot‐and‐stick affair; because implicit in the game is unchanging twoness of things, the duality of up against down, good against evil; the solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosities of the serpent; in the opposition of staircase and cobra we can see, metaphorically, all conceivable oppositions, Alpha against Omega, father against mother.
- IMAGES provided by
- Otto Rapp © Otto Rapp
- Otto in his studio 1994 photo by David Rossiter
- Quote from Salman Rushdie's novel
- Previously published in ISSUU on
May 29, 2015 by Otto Rapp
and published on Mar 6, 2016 in Otto Rapp - Drawings and Words
- additional images of Ernst Fuchs artwork are
© by the Ernst Fuchs-Werkvermittlungs GmbH