*The following interview is by Ehren Cruz, Founder of Solpurpose & Laurence Caruana, Visionary Art Academy Director
The idea and establishment of the Vienna Academy seems to have developed through a great calling…or perhaps a series of signs, symbols, and intimate intuitive guidance leading you to take up this important banner of artistic stewardship. You had mentioned that personal challenges and sacrifices within the self had to be confronted and processed before releasing into acceptance and undertaking of this momentous project. Can you describe this process a bit more in depth? How can the releasing of personal baggage and healing of inner conflict result in the maturation of one’s authentic calling? How did clearing out the inner chatter free up room for the full focused vision of the Vienna Academy to manifest?
For many years I’ve had to struggle with a somewhat schizoid tendency to express myself both verbally and visually. From the outside, this appears as a gift, and people have remarked on my strange right-brain / left-brain ability to verbalize the visual, and vice versa. But from the inside, this all appears much different: when I look at a painting, an inner voice starts to speak. When I look at a page, images appear in the spaces between the words. Sometimes it becomes a bit maddening and overwhelming. So, to escape from writing, I paint. And to escape from painting, I write. That way I manage to stay extremely busy while continually running away from myself.
Over time, this has gone to extremes – I go so far down into painting that I lose myself there, over the course of several years. There are really no words to describe the experience – I’m completely ‘in’ the image, the vision, and have lost myself there. No words; no voices. That’s what’s happened with a series of twelve large-scale paintings I’m working on, which will become the interior of a Chapel.
Then, just as those images were finally taking shape – the inner voice started to speak. So I began writing. And, over the course of several years, I plunged so far into writing that I lost myself there too. That’s the case with my latest book, out in September, called Sacred Codes. It’s the first of three volumes that go deeply into the ‘how‘ of Sacred and Visionary Art – how it’s done.
When the Academy project came along, I realized that I’d reached the point where I could no longer do all of this on my own. Twelve paintings for the chapel, three volumes of the book, teaching all those seminars – I needed collaborators. But, looking at this from the inside, I’d actually gone so far to the extremes – losing myself in each – that I now found myself at the centre of something completely different and unexpected.
In all honesty, I didn’t expect the Academy at all – that was something that Amanda Sage, in one of her more inspired moments, threw my way last summer.
Meanwhile, all the pieces had been falling into place over the course of many years. My book on Sacred Codes, which I’d begun long before the Academy project, will become an important part of what I’ll teach. And the same may become true of my Chapel paintings – I don’t know yet – that will depend on who really wants to collaborate. But I learned painting by working in Ernst Fuchs’ Apocalypse Chapel – most of the Academy teachers did – so things are naturally turning round full circle. As for myself, the Academy will become that strange place where I’ll do what I do best – teach others to see through words or hear images, until it all starts to make sense…
You speak of the importance of technique, tradition, and the honoring of long respected tribal and archaic wisdom teachings to help shape and hone the creative pallet of both aspiring and tenured visionaries alike. How does one use these core foundational elements then as catalysts to explore personal pathways of creative interpretation offering a new innovative and unique lens of the Akashic mythos for all experience?
Ernst Fuchs once defined myth for me in a way I’ll never forget. He said, “Myth is the eternal pre-figuration of a human life.” All the keys are given right there. Throughout time – from dreams and visions, but also from the sacred traditions of art itself – symbols and myths have appeared to keep us centered on the Sacred, to remind us of who we truly are and where we’re going.
But symbols remain empty unless they’re filled out with the personal experiences of an authentic life, lived in the present. So artists (and the artist’s audience) bring their lives to these symbols with the hope of experiencing personal transcendence. During certain rare moments, the myth and one’s life suddenly ‘click’ and coalesce, so that you experience how you’re living the myth, and how the myth was, in fact, the eternal prefiguration of your own life. That feeling of momentary oneness with the all can be very centering and healing.
But seeing your own life in a mythic way, painting the symbols and experiencing them deeply – none of these are easy. It helps to have a guide some times.
I’m really excited about our two-week workshop in mid-October. Led by David Heskin and Aloria Weaver, with Kuba Ambrose and Vera Atlantia as special guests, it’s called ‘In Quest of the Inner Image’. Primarily, it will help to evoke subject matter for the paintings through visualization and active imagination, but we also plan to explore Visionary Healing modalities, to clear the path to creative freedom and the emergence of inner visions. This is all new territory, and I think a workshop like this is the best place to explore these things. It provides a secure space for a limited time to do some deep soul exploration.
The passing down of wisdom, knowledge, work ethic, and technique by Master to apprentice is a well-documented phenomenon still present in many traditional learning institutions. However, you also speak toward the unfolding of a powerful alchemical relationship – one which can develop into a personal initiatory experience upon which the apprentice receives an energetic imprint of the Master’s work into their creative genius. From the Gnostics, to the Egyptians, to the Qabalistics and beyond, this process is documented within many arcane traditions, mystery schools, and spiritual lineages of great antiquity and sustaining cultural influence. Can you dive deeper in the initiatory phenomenon you speak of in regards to visionary art? How can an instructional relationship evolve into a potent vehicle of profound personal transformation and elevation of craft?
I have experienced things which, to a child, may seem normal, but to rational adult seem utterly impossible. I’ve experienced visions, mounting over the course of many hours, to behold the Sacred with open eyes. I’ve stared into a painting and watched in wonder as the painting dissolved, leaving only the vision – a stilled vision of a higher, timeless world, filled with crystalline perfection. If that’s the case – can any of this be taught?
To begin, you need some kind of practice, as a foundation. For the painter, that’s painting. You have to pick up a brush and paint for hours, days and weeks straight – there’s no other way. You have to learn concentration, control and discipline – not from the outside, but within. You learn the necessity of a spiritual practice, which is what painting is.
If you’re lucky, a master comes along and guides you. How much you learn depends on how much you’re willing to listen. He or she shares your spiritual practice but knows far more than can actually be taught. So, they do what their master did to them – they teach you all the technical aspects, knowing each one offers a doorway to transcendence. No one pushes you through the door – you have to go there yourself. But then you discover new meaning to the techniques, new possibilities. And suddenly, something your master did, which made no sense at the time, becomes perfectly clear. So, you move to a higher level. This can be repeated a surprising number of times.
But, when you’re face to face with the Sacred in a vision – it’s just you and the infinite. Maybe the voice of your master will come to remind you of things in that moment, but you’re on your own. So the role of the master is to prepare the apprentice, as much as one can. There are no secrets, no passwords – only the limits of what can be taught and shown.
The Guild you have developed to teach at the Academy is a truly magnificent consortium of talented artists; rich in various forms of technique, approach, and philosophy. What different styles and techniques of art will be taught at the Academy? Will the teachers instruct in one particular technique as specialists or will there be a fair bit of overlap on curriculum materials?
My relationship to each of the nine other members of the Guild is very special. Each of us feels a tremendous amount of respect for what the other can do. So each will play their role in developing the curriculum and teaching what they know best. My role as Academy Director has been to divide up the painting process into discrete segments that can be taught – by three sets of teachers over three trimesters. Each artist will teach the stage of painting they know best.
So, in the first trimester, we’ll explore all the different aspects of the Drawing stage – the composition, armatures, sacred geometry, proportion, perspective and especially the figure. David Heskin and Aloria Weaver are ideal for these subjects, since they naturally have an intense curiosity in these areas and have explored them thoroughly in their work. With the figure, we’ll practice from life, but also from statuary to learn how to stylize and idealize the human body. From there, we’ll progress to animals, plants, drapery – there’s so much to explore…
In the second trimester, we’ll begin painting. We’ll learn the Monochrome Underpainting stage of the Mischtechnik using casein or egg tempera, but we’ll also explore other techniques. For this introduction to oils, I couldn’t imagine anyone more qualified than Maura Holden and Timea Tallian. Both share a passion for the alchemy of pigments and binders – the unique properties of varnish, oil and turpentine, the history of each colour and its nuances when combined with others. At the same time, they’re both very creative, intuitive artists with their own painterly vision. In the second trimester, we’ll continue teaching the figure, now in whites on a black ground, while taking the students to study statues and paintings in museums.
During the third trimester Daniel Mirante and Kuba Ambrose will advance the Mischtechnik paintings to the Glazing stage, while Amanda Sage and Emma Watkinson will show up towards the end for the paintings’ completion, exhibition and promotion. Other painting techniques, from Computer Rendering to Live Painting, will be thoroughly explored while colour becomes the dominant theme – the endless possibilities of colour… All these teachers have a thorough grounding in technique, but also know how to share their creative exploration of the vision and materials.
During all this time there’ll also be workshops and guest lecturers. These teachers, like De Es, Michael Fuchs, Otto Rapp and Peter Gric, will bring their own unique talents, vision and know-how to what they teach. I’ll be co-teaching each trimester with the two main teachers, providing a kind of continuity and narrative thread to the year-long experience.
Will the instructors also be present in the facility at all times of instruction? Or will lessons also be offered through online classroom conferencing? Is there a potential that you may consider offering courses via the internet in the future for certifications or credits toward the acquisition of an Academy degree?
From ten till six, five days a week, the teachers will always be present – sometimes one, sometimes three at a time. Mornings are half theory, half practice in a certain subject; afternoons are for clearly directed studio projects. We’re accredited as a private teaching institution, and are making bridges to universities in the U.S and Europe, to become part of their accredited programmes. As for instruction via the net, I can see that happening with our year-long weekly course on the History of Myths, Symbols and Styles, which covers all the major epochs of Sacred Art, from Tribal societies, branching east and west, to contemporary Visionary art. But the practical aspects of painting really require hands on instruction.
Solpurpose was originally designed to reveal and synchronize a vast network of powerful visionary offerings taking root throughout the world; in order to celebrate, support, and proliferate their incredible healing and transformational power. Your motto “Ad Sacrum”, toward the sacred, speaks to the heart of this mission…that all of these unique expressions are pathways toward healing, inner peace, and lasting personal fulfillment. Can you share with us your thoughts on how embodying art as a spiritual practice can not only lead to profound personal discovery, yet also create harmonious pathways of abundance and well-being for one’s family, community, and ultimately our world?
For many years, I’ve been struggling with the question of Visionary Healing, and how Visionary Art can heal individuals and the planet as a whole. It really comes down to a paradigm shift – to momentarily experience oneness, and so change your own inner perspective from a personal to a trans-personal view of things – a planet-based perspective rather than an ego-based one. Through the art, the music and the festivals, but also through knowledge-sharing on the net, we’re creating so many opportunities for that core experience. It’s something that you have to experience for yourself. But, once you do, it immediately becomes something that you want to share. So, you start to create networks of unity on different levels, from your family to your allies and out to the world. Integrating the experience is all about changing the way you live, starting with the basics like what you eat and what you wear, then what you do for a living. You’re expected to work your way up through the old model, and succeed that way, but what you really need is to learn from the inside how to creatively carve out your own path, living in accord with a new model of truly ‘being”. That’s where the edge is, and it at times may require a great degree of sacrifice.
Which brings us to the question of abundance, which is another word I’ve been struggling with. Does this word really describe something new, or is it just hiding the old paradigm of money = wealth = happiness? When someone says, I hope to generate abundance, what do they mean? I think we experience abundance during those rare moments when we experience the gifts of life without money or time as deciding factors. Living without money sounds impossible, but we just have to create more and more opportunities – like gardening, or sharing a meal or making art together – where the gifts of life are experienced directly. There’s a seed of Tribal wisdom there that our society needs to integrate.
What story do you hope to tell with the Vienna Academy? What great legend awaits to be revealed upon the opening of her doors? What are the highest hopes and dreams you hope to manifest through the evolution of this institution? And how will spirited collaboration and fellowship help to manifest these great dreams?
The Academy branches out to include the Guild and the Master’s Studio. These three different kinds of artists’ associations existed historically for a reason. There was a public demand for an art that chronicled the culture’s history, and the academies fulfilled that. There was a public demand for sacred art and the guilds and masters’ studios fulfilled that. We’re re-creating these artists’ associations with the belief that our culture will take interest once more in an art that is meaningful, relevant, and spiritually uplifting.
As the demand for this kind of art increases, we hope to create a place where students can come to be paid for their education. The Guild and the Master’s Studio are there to fulfill the demand for this kind of art, by producing originals and reproductions, to generate enough income to support the Academy. The Academy is a place where members of the Guild can come together and share their knowledge of techniques, with colleagues and apprentices alike. A valuable apprentice should be paid for their work as they learn how to master a technique. That’s how many of us apprenticed with Fuchs, and that’s how I’d like to see it done at the Academy eventually.
As the culture becomes more advanced and sophisticated, the demand for specialty increases. My long-term vision is to see the Academy expand beyond painting and become a workshop for producing jewellery, fashion, furniture – all things that are functional and yet they possess a cultural and spiritual meaning for their bearer. So, design comes to the fore – those specific patterns, shapes and styles that define a certain epoch and Zeitgeist. At the same time, the spiritual techniques that ground every craft can also be offered as a form of healing for those who need to grow spiritually through the healing power of images. The Academy can branch out to all forms of creative exploration, finding relevance in the relationship of painting to music and to dance, and of these to festivals and architecture. A harmonious and cohesive culture should emerge at all levels, with a clear vision of mutual co-operation and collective benefits for all.
At its highest level, the Academy would become a kind of monastery, which is orderly and playful at the same time. Art is pursued as a purely spiritual path, and the work’s value is shown by its power to spiritually uplift others, to bring them together in unity to celebrate their inherently divine nature.
Conclusion Written By Ehren Cruz
At a time where many are seeking honest direction toward meaningful and lasting pathways of creative fulfillment, the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art has emerged to heed this mighty call. Fostering our deepest creative potential through practiced approach, mindful action, and community exchange are only a few of the gifts offered by this beautiful institution. As of even greater note, is the blessed opportunity to re-immurse into your greatest passion with the guidance of gifted and compassionate master stewards of the craft alongside you every step of the way. Solpurpose is honored to support Master Laurence and all involved with the manifestation of this great Academy. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated, “The creation of a thousand forests lies within a single acorn.” So may the blessing of this academy spark the fire of inspiration and crystallized vision within us. Guiding us to manifest our deepest dreams and potentials for the betterment of all life.