Art of the Mystic - Catalogue Essay

Otto Rapp

The following is an essay from the exhibition catalogue The Art Of The Mystic, 16th June to 17th July 1994, written by Elizabeth M. Ginn, Director/Curator The Prairie Art Gallery, Grande Prairie, Alberta.


Born in Felixdorf, Austria in 1944 and immigrating to Canada twentyfive years ago, Otto Rapp completed his art education at the University of Lethbridge in 1982. Prior to this he studued in Vienna. Since 1974, Otto's work has been exhibited extensively in Alberta and is in numerous public and private collections, including the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, The World Print Council in San Francisco and the Nickle Arts Museum in Calgary. His work has been reviewed in a variety of publications in Alberta, including The Calgary Herald, the Alberta Report, Alberta Culture - Visual Arts Newsletter, and the Toronto publication Canadian Artists In Exhibition 72-73.
The recipient of awards for scholastic achievement and academic involvement, Otto has been involved in the arts in Alberta as an instructor, curator, studio technician and artist for the twentyfive years that he has been in Canada.
Otto has studied a variety of subjects, including world religions, philosophies, history, anthropology and the physiology of humanity.
It is this breath of knowledge that has allowed him to present the work that he does, exploring the archetypal myth that crosses the boundaries of Eastern philosophies, Christianity and the mythologies of early Romantic belief systems.
Otto Rapp is an example of an obscure approach to the tradition of making art. At the same time, he is very much a traditional artist in his approach to a subject that is rarely seen on this continent.
In the 16th Century the Flemish artist Hieronimus Bosch explored the shadow side of humanity by presenting work that related to his interpretations of madness and Heaven vs. Hell. In the early 18th Century, the Italian artist Guiseppe Archimboldi presented the bizarre by creating works that utilized symbols of every day life to create disturbing portraits related to the four seasons and the muse.
Otto refers to his work as stemming from Die Wiener Schule des Phantastischen Realismus (The School of Fantastic Realism). What is specific to his approach is based on a manifesto that stresses the collective unconscious readily presenting itself with imagery that is intuitive, and at the same time readily within the grasp of identity. For example, one knows what a rhinoceros is, but when examining the rhinoceros in Rhino Rider it becomes obvious that the skin contains a myriad of imagery. As in other pieces, the art of camouflage conceals. One has to look beyond the obvious.
Bogomil’s Universe is Otto’s own Inner Universe, constructed to represent his alter ego. The Bogomils were a gnostic sect in 12th century Romania that rejected the material world in search of pure spirituality. Their purist approach to this chosen lifestyle was self-defeating. They were also asexual and their lack of heirs to the legacy resulted in an ultimate discontinuation of the sect. They were persecuted for their beliefs and the only remaining clue to their existence are their cemeteries.
When looking at the work of a particular artist, one wonders what precedes the work.
What are the influences? What is the intent?
Why does the artist do what he or she does?
How is the public supposed to react to art per se?
This exhibition certainly sets up in the mind of the viewer a response to all the preceding questions. Everyone brings his or her own perceptions, experiences and opinions to an art exhibition. Resulting responses are contingent on these factors
. In simple terms, what is seen at first glance (first impression) rarely gives an honest or complete picture of intent. All is in a state of transition, subject to interpretation. By exploring the symbology and myths associated with his own inner universe, Otto has entered a meditative journey, akin to the journey of the shaman, employing archetypes of a universal nature. He has challenged conventional thinking, broken cultural mores and taboos, thereby extending his own understanding of universal, hence cultural differences and beliefs. Otto Rapp is a mystic, extending opportunity to the viewer to experience their own personal symbolisms.
Elizabeth M. Ginn


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