I first became acquainted with the work of Ernst Fuchs in 1990, while I was living in Vienna and studying at die Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Unfortunately, he was not teaching then, so I never met him.
Over the next ten years, I had a series of six dreams that strangely predicted our eventual encounter in Klagenfurt, the summer of 2000.
Certain motifs in these dreams recurr, such as 'going up to the mezzanine or second floor'. Some dreams even make direct reference to events in the previous dreams, though they were dreamt months apart. Most importantly, there is a gradual movement forward, as repeated attempts to meet with Ernst Fuchs first end in failure and frustration, but eventually are successful.
At the time, I didn't think the dreams were predictive in any way. But once we'd met and I apprenticed under him for a year, I was struck by how many elements in these dreams were later confirmed by experience.
STRASBOURG, DREAM OF THE NIGHT OF MAY 18, 1997
I am at an event, like the film festival at Cannes, though this event is still in its rehearsal stages. In a large auditorium, covered by a modern, tent-like structure, I watch as a group of 10 or so young Black Americans go through their dance routine. They are full of energy and enthusiasm, which is so foreign to European culture (which expresses itself in more reserved ways).
A person comes to me and tells me that Ernst Fuchs lives around the corner, and there is a chance to visit him. As I am being told this, one of the younger Black dancers overhears, and tells the others. So, the whole gang of us sets out to find him. My French wife Florence is also with me.
We go to a building and up to the second floor, then knock on the door. The door is opened by Fuchs' family. All are around 25 to 30 years of age, and look like a typical, cultivated Jewish family from turn-of-the-century Vienna. As Europeans, they are much amused by seeing all of these Black Americans standing in front of their door.
I ask where Fuchs may be found, and his daughter replies that he is not here at the moment. However, he is not far from here - he's in his favourite cafe. She says this teasingly, offering only vague information. Still, she's intrigued by the prospect of all of us going and surrounding Fuchs at his favourite cafe.
Then, one of his elder sons steps forward - bearded, with glasses, curly hair, and quite intellectual. He explains to me that it is the third cafe on the left, and that Fuchs usually sits on the second floor.
I thank him, and we all set out for the cafe. I am in the lead, followed by Florence, and then all the kids. We find the cafe, and I begin ascending the stairs to the second floor when - I wake up.
PARIS, DREAM OF THE NIGHT OF OCTORBER 3, 1997
I am in Vienna, and walking up Hüttelbergstrasse to Ernst Fuchs' villa. I notice that one of the houses on the hill is actually a traditional Viennese cafe, several storeys high, and full of Viennese drinking coffee and holding conversation. I would like to go in, but I notice that all of the clients are very nicely dressed. Many of them are Jewish, and look as if they have just come back from temple. Because I am badly dressed, I decide to carry on.
As I go further up the street, I glance up, and notice Fuchs and some of his guests are on the balcony of his house. I decide to ring and introduce myself.
But, as I come closer to the house, I now notice that it is empty. Indeed, it is locked up for winter, with metal shutters drawn over the windows and balconies. I see there is no way I could ever gain entrance.
PARIS, DREAM OF THE NIGHT OF FEBRUARY 20, 1998
I am with my wife Florence on a trip. We are in a car and she is driving. I look out the window, and see a market where a number of books are for sale. In particular, I notice used books on the art of Ernst Fuchs. (The location is vague. This could be Vienna, but the book stalls look like les bouquinistes on the banks of the Seine in Paris).
I get out of the car while Florence tries to find a place to park. As I look at the books, I notice that there are also many carved blocks of stone around. I realize that these are parts of a fountain which Fuchs has been working on, on and off, for several years.
I find a book, which is actually the pocket appointment calendar that once belonged to Ernst Fuchs (similar to the kind of appointment calendar I used to have in Toronto and Munich). It has all the various appointments that Fuchs kept, written in his own hand, as well as the occasional doodle.
At the back of the pocket calendar, I find a message written to Fuchs in my own hand-writing. It is my request to meet him.
Then, there is the sense that I am standing in the bookshop of Ernst Fuchs' museum. Fuchs enters, looks around, and notices me. He comes forward, and says in English that he recognizes me. We shake hands (warmly, a strong sense of genuine contact) and even kiss each other on the cheeks twice (as is the custom in Paris. I move to kiss him a third time, as is the custom in the South of France, but he withdraws.) I say that we met in Paris last time, at his Vernissage. Then, I think of something more to say, to engage him in conversation. I say that I spend a lot of my time going between Vienna and Paris. As a matter of fact, when I was in Vienna a few weeks ago, I tried to contact you, but couldn't find you at home. (In the dream, I seem to remember the last dream I had, as if it were real...)
I turn to Florence, who is now there, and ask, 'Isn't that right?'
In fact, I want to turn the conversation to the subject of meeting him in private for discussions on the techniques of painting. But, Fuchs quickly turns away, as another person engages his attention.
Disappointed with myself, I wake up.
PARIS, EASTER MONDAY, DREAM OF THE NIGHT OF APRIL 13, 1998
I am together with Ernst Fuchs, and we are admiring the architecture of a building that he has constructed. There is the sense that he and I know each other, but not very well. His building is mostly made of concrete poured into molds, resulting in a dark, Romanesque style of church. But, from where we are standing (the floor of the cathedral), there is a fantastic, Escher-like effect. Numerous portals, arches, and long Gothic columns are gracefully ascending in numerous directions. From where we are standing, I notice that, no matter where I turn my glace, there is a long perspective, as if looking up a Gothic arch to the vault. Although these numerous points of perspective would be impossible in reality, in my dream they create a marvellous sense of fantastic harmony.
I comment to Fuchs that this reminds me of a line from the song 'Helter Skelter' ('When you get to the bottom you go back to the top of the slide, then you turn and you stop and you go for a ride, then you get to the bottom, then you see me again...'). 'What's that?' he asks. And I reply, 'From the Beatles.' He nods, seemingly unfamiliar with the Beatles. And so, on a piece of paper, he makes a note of what I just said.
I then go off on my own to further explore the building. Soon, I am on the upper mezzanine, and there are plenty of tourists from different countries exploring the building as well. I notice various displays. One shows various alchemical and astronomical instruments. Another is a large sculpted book which perports to demonstrate how Freud was descended from a certain genealogical tree.
Then, it is announced that the museum will be closing.
PARIS, DREAM OF THE NIGHT OF JUNE15, 1998
Florence and I are together with Ernst Fuchs. He is very pressed for time, but is staying with us a bit longer because he finds Florence's company to be extremely pleasant.
I take the opportunity to ask him a few questions about painting technique, as I had just found a copy of Doerner's book, The Materials of the Artist the last time I was in New York, and wanted confirmation on what I had read about the Mischtechnik. I asked him if one uses alternating layers of egg tempera and oil, with dammar varnish in between, and he said, 'Yes.' I then wanted to ask him the particulars about layering the paint, but he said he had no more time.
PARIS, DREAM OF THE NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 21, 1998
I am with Ernst Fuchs in his studio. We have received a commission, involving the design of a film which uses the Kabbala. Fuchs explains to me his vision of the Kabbala, looking at me directly, and I understand his ideas with no problem.
I set about gathering the colours and paints I'll need, thinking that I'll probably work on the project alone. But, then I see that Fuchs and I are going to paint this together.
I go up to the mezzanine, to get some things. Suddenly, I pause, and look out over the studio. It becomes clear to me, after repeated requests, that I have succeeded in becoming his assistant. While that is not, in any way, a final accomplishment in life, its a very important step. I have received his recognition. And, with that thought, the dream ends.