Phase I

FIREBIRD
1974-1976

 

Place
A small farming village in the French speaking Swiss Canton of Vaud

Motives
Inspired by Fantastic Realism

Technique
Colored pencil, felt pen, India ink on canvas and paper, pastels, acrylics, linocut, woodcut

 

Our familyhouse in Naefels destroyed by fire
On February 7, 1974, my birthday, I receive a phone call from my younger brother Rolf, telling me that our family home, including the adjoining cabinet-making factory and my parents’ furniture business, burned to the ground within two hours that very morning.

A house filled with objects and memories of our childhood has gone up in flames. Our parents are in shock. So am I.

 

A crisis is also a chance
For the following two days I work relentlessly on my first painting in a meticulous pointillist technique as if to create order in my inner turmoil. We live in a small farming village in French-speaking Switzerland and in front of our bay window I see the cows returning from the fields, their udders swollen with milk and the large bells hanging from their necks swaying in harmony. In the evening of the second day, upon returning from his work as a chef-de-clinique at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Lausanne, Gottlieb takes a long look at the miniature painting.

On the spur of the moment he proposes that I give up my job as an art therapist at a psychiatric day clinic in Lausanne and embark on a career as an artist. And this is exactly what I do. I am still grateful for his initial drive and also for the support he has offered me ever since. Art is teamwork. There are times in life when resolute advice from a trusted person is the only thing that gets you out of a rut and helps you to change the design of your life.

 

School of Art in Lausanne
After some preparatory courses in an art studio I am ready to submit a portfolio to the School of Art in Lausanne (École des Beaux Arts). I am accepted as an external student. Two weeks later I drop out, irritated by my post-pubertal fellow students, mainly males, who rejoice in endless ideological discussions with - or rather against - their teachers. This is not at all what I had been looking for. All these storms in a teacup seem futile to me, a loss of time and energy. Remember, this is the era of the anti-authoritarian revolution initiated by the French student revolt back in May 1968, which had, in turn, been inspired by the student revolt at Berkeley University in autumn 1964. The Zeitgeist of the Lausanne art students is dominated by the apodictic statements of Marxists and psychoanalysts such as Bakunin, Marx, Lenin, Lukács, Freud and Reich. But the accomplishments of great creative artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Cézanne, Monet, Klee, Kandinsky and other such creative minds are relegated to the category of antiquated “bourgeois”.

 

A life as a free-lance artist
I am feeling free again and fortunate to have a few accomplished artist friends who give me good advice, teach me their techniques and encourage me to move along my selfchosen path. Among them are Kurt von Ballmoos, Albert E. Yersin and Werner Zurbriggen. Soon I am ready to submit a portfolio of drawings to the GSAMBA (Swiss Association of Painters, Sculptors and Architects) and am admitted to their prestigious round, participating in their regular meetings and group exhibitions.


This is the official start of Phase I. The unofficial beginning had been prompted by the  Firebird and Gottlieb’s wise suggestion.