ERNST DEGASPERI is a Catholic artist with ambition. He is not content with imitating the visual world, but instead attempts to accentuate the bonds of belief which reach across denominations and creeds.
Visiting London last week after a highly successful exhibition in Edinburgh, he described his work as "biblical
art for reconciliation". Although unequivocal about his own belief, he is insistent about the need for greater understanding between all people of divergent religious views.
His art draws themes from both the Old and New Testaments and weaves them together. It has been exhibited all over the world from New York to Tel-Aviv in galleries, cathedrals and monasteries.
Six of his murals are on permanent display in various parts of Austria and his four and a half ton concrete monument entitled "Bereshit Bara," can be seen in Gedera, This remarkable artistic career sprung from a "late vocation". Before 1963 Mr Degasperi had been a precision tool mechanic and then an industrial designer. He had skill in technical drawing but had never attempted to represent a human face or hands.
Suddenly he became immersed in the dramatic vision-world of St John's Revelations. For more than three months he drew frantically. At the end he had completed "The Apocalypse" his first cycle of drawings.
From then on his life changed. He gave up him commercial career and devoted all his time to art.
Since then he has produced at least one cycle of pictures a year as well as various lithographs, brush. and ink drawings, and etchings.
His style is hard to define: the acute tension of much of his pen and ink work make it an ideal vehicle for conveying physical suffering or spiritual ecstasy. His work is richly interwoven with Judaeo/ChrisElan symbolism and is much
influenced by his own fascination with the shapes of stones and gnarled root systems.
This year he exhibited a collection of 40 biblical graphics called "Voices from the Desert" at the Netherhow Gallery, the Church of Scotland Arts Centre in Edinburgh. at the invitation of the Rev Gordon Strachan. Mr Strachan said he believed the exhibition would "help unite us all more firmly with God and with each other."
In between his lectures on "Masada". "Exodus" and "Revelation" at the Netherhow Gallery, Mr Degasperi also worked on a painting entitled "The Assumption of Elijah" which he later presented to St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral.
The painting was under the patronage of Cardinal Gray of Edinburgh: the Rt Rev A. I.. M. liaggart, Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh: the Very' Rev Ronald Selby Wright. former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and Mr Kurt Ender], the Austrian Ambassador.
Mr Degasperi described his painting as a work "of spiritual ecumenism and thanksgiving". He hopes it will bring Catholics and Episcopalians together and help non-Catholics to understand our belief in the Assumption of Our Lady.
At the unveiling ceremony, which was attended by representatives of all denominations, the Provost of St Mary's Cathedral. the Very Rev Philip Crosfield, spoke of the painting as a gift which would he treasured by future generations not only For its artistic merit "hut for all that it represents in reconciliation."
The Dean of York was so impressed by Mr Degasperi's work in Edinburgh that he has invited him to exhibit at the anniversary celebrations at York Minster under joint Catholic and Anglican patronage.
Mr Degasperi has eagerly accepted the invitation as another opportunity "to use the Bible to close the gaps between people.'