Dominique Appia (My Grandfather in Geneva)

Dominique Appia

Today I want to write about my grandfather in Geneva (I have two grandfathers, one in Geneva, Switzerland and one in Tucson, Arizona [about whom I will dedicate another post [he keeps the batteries going {in fact, I’ll write about my grandmothers too <4 posts, total>}]).

My grandfather in Geneva paints.  He also loves to speak and to write.  And he likes good food, and to travel.  And he likes humanity, history, language, psychology, architecture, art, music, wine, women, Gitanes and probably a whole lot of other things that I haven’t had the chance to share with him.  He likes life.  While that may be a simplistic characterization, it well sums up my understanding of him.  His influence upon me is immense.  I am a different person with different influences, as well, but in subtle and obvious ways, I am an evolution of his character (in a different time and place [culture]).

If one were to view human personalities as consisting of some finite number of characterizable versions (let’s say 23, for the sake of concreteness [chromosomes]), and one were also to say that which was dominant in a person was passed through genetic-environmental codetermination… well, let’s just say that my grandfather in Geneva’s personality is the 1 of 23 that I inherited.  The 1 of 23 that, like fish in a river, swam through my parents’ DNA and slithered through time into me. (But I have another majority vote, too [do we all have two majority votes?])  And we slip through time, carrying the flame (read here too, for further embedded resonances).

My grandfather paints.  That is what I have known him to do since I have known him.  This is perhaps my favorite painting, although I include another favorite right after.

Dominique Appia's painting Enter the secret and the danger

I see many things in here.  There we are, our souls listening to one another, separated by the sea.  His daughter, my mother sleeping.  Psychological things.  Personal things.  Archetypal things.  Also, family things.  Sometimes I think this painting…  An arrangement of meanings most something.  The title: Enter the Secret and the Danger (Entre le Secret et le Danger).  I don’t know that I should really discuss it.  I’ll decide.

Between the Gaps(Gasps) in Memory (Entre les trous de la memoire):

Dominque Appia's painting "between the gaps in memory"

This one certainly speaks to me, too.  It uses the language of our family.  At least it speaks that way to me.

Check out: (the website was created by my Mom and this is hers) for more paintings.

I will give a brief biography.  A fuller biography is in order, and I will begin work immediately.  Consider this the first outline.

My grandfather was born 1926.  He remembers World War 2 in Switzerland.  Switzerland was neutral, but not unaffected.  Food was rationed and at night windows were covered so that buildings did not provide targets to bombers.  We’re talking Geneva, which is like 16 kilometers from the French border.  After the war there was a economic surge.  Architects were in great demand.  My grandfather had not gone to school for architecture, nor had he really architected before.  But he walked in for an interview and got the job and learned on the job.  What he did know how to do was paint.  To think geometrically.

Dominique Appia's painting la lecon de perspective  qui est au bout du fil (The lesson in perspective is on the line)

Perhaps he would have pursued painting as a career from the start, but when he was in his teens and he asked an influential person what he thought of his art, the man said ‘non‘, or some such:  he discouraged.

Dominque Appia's Un Papillon Sur L'epale

So my grandfather was an architect for many years, and eventually taught architecture, too.  But in the mid sixties he had what is crudely known as a midlife crisis. He began to paint again.  And he never stopped.  He paints to this day.  He is married to Anne Mathil for 30 years.  He has three daughters and four grandchildren and one brother.

His daughter who is my mother moved to America in the 70s, had me in the 80s, and moved back to Switzerland in the 00s.

My grandfather has a very intimate relation with European culture.  He speaks of Napolean as if he’d almost seen him marching down the avenue.  I can’t remember everything that he has said, but it has all been abstracted into the perception of a really super deep relation to a cultural essence.  He knows Europe.  Has lain with her and fought her and does so to this day.  He helps satisfy her desires and define them.

Dominque Appia's painting Interior of the Sea

There is so much more to his life.  To me it is like a vast mystery.  Yet, I understand it too.  It is second nature to me.  Perhaps, with my grandfather, it is less what he did than how he lived.  It is thus for all of us, finally.  He lives the good life.

His being radiates across the ocean.  Europe radiates across the ocean.  Through him I have encountered a beingness that I would not likely have encountered.  That few encounter over the long term, the time required to exert the most subtle influences.  What I mean is that my grandfather has shown me the possibility of deeply relating to a living cultural seed that one also helps to plant as part of loving it.

Dominique Appia's painting Les Temps des Gares

He has shown me the side of intellectuality that loves.  I mean this in terms of emotional love.  The feeling of it.  A kind of love that I can achieve, too.  A kind of love that is natural to me.  A free-spirited love.  (When I get home from this trip I will include more paintings, and words, and perhaps this shall grow into a real biography)

What leaks through his paintings into me is the complicated, abstract, magical juxtaposition of a few understandable elements.  This characterizes my writing (I imagine).  I don’t build too elaborate of constructions.  There are usually 3-4-5 elements, sometimes 2, rarely 1.  They work in concert, often meeting for the first time.  Their true awareness of their changing context.  Like good travelers between cultures who never engender enough friction to erupt to the surface (at least that much of humanity is grasped).

If you look deeply, into each of the paintings above, there is a crisis at work.  In fact, it is often operating directly at the surface.  But it does not disturb anyone.  It is seamless within its context.  My grandfather’s paintings are very psychological, in my opinion.  Of course, I have heard this growing up, too.  That he is appreciated among some psychologists or psychiatrists, or both.  But I can feel it for myself, too.  I see these as the products of a mature modern human being.

46 thoughts on “Dominique Appia (My Grandfather in Geneva)

  1. […] wrote about my Grandfather in (Dominique Appia…).  He and his paintings have strongly influenced how I see.  They have been like seeds of […]

  2. […] Learn to mentally mind map books while you read them.  Think of my Grandfather’s painting Entre le Trous de la Memoire–the ability to condense an entire narrative into a single unified […]

  3. […] noticed that most of my traffic is driven by search engine queries concerning Dominique Appia.  In truth, there’s not a lot available on the web (in english) about my Grandfather.  In […]

  4. […] (whether or not you “believe in” reincarnation [my thoughts are complex, see some of my discussion on my Grandfather for a little clarification] a definite sense of the scale of difficulty is […]

  5. […] Appia (My Grandfather, Dominique Appia […]

  6. Tabatha Reese says:

    I hardly know what to say, in response to your entry. However, I do know that I needed to say something. I’m very grateful for this post. I’ve had this poster for years. I’ve stared at it for hours on end, trying to figure out its meaning. I’ve come up with so many. I’m glad to know that it’s meant to be a psychological piece. I feel much less insane….perhaps more. :p I’m still unsure. Anyhow, thank you again for this posting. Much love to you both. -Tabby

    • jeromeyers says:

      I gave my own meaning. Probably one of the powerful things about the painting is in fact that it can have different and deep meanings to different people. I gave a narrative in terms of my family, but in truth, those themselves are personal wrappings over more generic human dynamics. And so the painting can drape itself over anyone’s life, perhaps. Or at least certain types of personalities.

  7. Dominique Papon Dubois-Ferrière says:

    J’aime beaucoup les ” 4 saisons” exposé à Belle Idée.

  8. Rosie says:

    I absolutely love your grandfathers artwork. I have had block-mounted prints of ‘Entre le Secret et le Danger’ and ‘Entre les trous de la memoire’ for nearly 30 years. They have initiated much discussion and various interpretations from past and present individuals who have observed them in my home. I recently found your grandfathers website, and for the first time, I was able to see much more of his work. He is a truly amazing artist. If I am able to get more of his prints in Australia, I will do so with great pleasure. Love to you both. Rosie 🙂

  9. Patricia Toal says:

    I actually emailed often with your Grandfather. I discovered him when my daughter had a school assignment and we emailed him. He answered and mailed back and forth for a few years. He sent me a copy of his book. When he had his bad fall and was bedridden, I had had major surgery and we emailed frequently. He sent me copies of his sketches he did at that time. He was so sad not to be able to paint.

    He is a kind, talented and interesting man. I am so happy I found your post. I check on him via the web from time to time to see if there are any new paintings.

    Pat in Canada

    • jeromeyers says:

      Yes, it was a sad time for him. He is painting again a little now, but it is difficult. He is publishing a book about Geneva soon, including many new paintings that I don’t believe have been seen before.

      • Cei says:

        hello, my name is Cei. I work with clients who have experienced early childhood trauma. My late husband, David Grove and I developed a specific way of working with trauma that converts the every day language to describe symptoms and thoughts into epistemological metaphors. That is to say, metaphors that act as specific ambassadors of the thoughts and feelings that are more accurate and malleable to change than the everyday, universal language of trauma. I would very much like to buy the permission to use your grandfather’s painting,”Entre Les Trous De La Memoire” for the cover of a workbook I have written to give to therapists at seminars. I am more than happy to send you the content of the most recent workbook. The principles are also known as Clean Language. The aim is to prevent therapists from “contaminating” the client’s experience by interpreting and placing their own experience onto the clients.I have previously purchased permission to use several other artists work for similar projects. Your Grandfather’s works of art are extremely innovative and this particular piece of art is so reflective of the type of experience a client speaks of during an intervention, including the surreal dissociative and “nihilistic” experience frequently seen in early trauma. With regards to you and your grandfather, Cei

      • jeromeyers says:

        Cei, thank you. What you describe reminds me of when I read Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson. It’s an NLP book. Another good one is Therapeutic Metaphors by David Gordon. Anyway, you’re a professional, so that’s all neither here nor there. Concerning my grandfather’s painting, I bet something could be worked out. I will talk with him and see about getting you two in contact. Psychologists and psychiatrists tend to love his work and are the largest collectors.

  10. Dany says:

    Please allow me to represent all your grandfather’s fans in China to say Happy New Year to him and wish him all the best! We all love his incredible work, they’re just great! Hope I wouldn’t offend him if I say that your artwork are cooler than Salvador Dalí! We would like to know where we could purchase him original artwork? We looked everywhere at auction house, not succeeded, sad.

  11. cei says:

    Jeromeyers: hello again. Thank you for your reply. Yes, I have been associated with the Ericksonian Foundation for a number of years. The principle difference between Ericksonian metaphors and Clean Language – epistemological metaphors that my late husband, David Grove developed – is that Erickson offered his clients with a metaphor he believed corresponded with the issue or symptoms they presented with. Epistemological metaphors are developed using Clean Language questions from the client’s experience, not from the therapist. These metaphors therefore behave as a “time bridge” [Plato’s metaxu] that access the original owner, or early versions of the symptoms. The majority of the clients we have worked with have experienced early trauma or abuse. When we work with war veterans, or more clients with recent traumatic events, there is frequently predispositional experience – such as dissociative disorders- that contribute to the recent response to a trauma. Hence your Grandfather’s painting, “Entre Les Trous De La Memoire” being so exquisitely apt. Early traumatic events with dissociative elements often translate as a fragment of the child’s experience remaining “frozen” as a mere suggestion of what has taken place. A Clean Language intervention does not look for memory or to confirm a traumatic event, but rather to provide an opportunity for symptom relief.
    So yes, as the principle attendees to our lectures are psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers, I can understand the interest these folk have in your Grandfather’s unique art work.

    • jeromeyers says:

      Cei, for various reasons my grandfather is not interested in having his art used in this way anymore although he appreciates your interest and your perceptions.

      • cei says:

        Hello again, thank you so much for your reply. I greatly appreciate your grandfather’s decision. I have fortunately been given permission to use a piece of art work that I will use to represent my book at the next international convention. Meanwhile, I wish you and your grandfather all the very best.

  12. Meredith Blady says:

    I absolutely love Dominique Appia’s work. The first one I saw was Entre les trous de la memoire. It was so beautiful and I still find myself gazing at all the details.
    Is there any way to meet him?

    • jeromeyers says:

      He lives in Geneva Switzerland. I would say that I could act as intermediary, but he has an email address, and so you should just contact him directly. However, I know he is very busy. I also imagine that he would prefer to have that conversation in French, although that is just a guess.

  13. I visited your grandfather in Geneva in 1988 and he was very lovable. I also have a signed book from him, I hold in honor. He is a great artist and I love his works. We could entertain something in German at that
    time even. I forget this visit never. I wish him a long and healthy life!

  14. Thank you so much for your post. From the moment I found your grandfather’s Entre les trous de la memoire poster twenty five years ago at a university store while I was a grad student at Cornell, I fell in love with it. There was no internet then, so searching for his works was not easy. But after the internet revolution, I reconnected with his art virtually and keep on searching from time to time. I did not even know he is Swiss until a sister-in-law who is Swiss, told me. I am no art critic but in my view, your grandfather is definitely one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. His paintings make me think, take the viewer to a different dimension where fire and water, two fundamental elements of human existence, take on new forms and meaning. My very best to you and your grandfather and the rest of the family.

  15. David Mills says:

    I am delighted to have found this page! I began my teaching career in 1971 – this was the year I discovered your grandfather’s painting ‘Entre le Trous de la Memoire’ There was no internet then, but, on a visit to London, I found a poster shop and there. in size ‘double-crown’ I found a copy of this painting. I have been hugely influenced and inspired by it, as have my students over 30 years as I displayed a copy of it in every classroom I taught in over those years. It never failed to draw comments and questions from students who were impressed and intrigued by it. Without a doubt your grandfather is one of the greatest painters on the 20th Century.

  16. […] confident that my impulse towards such things is not unconnected to the nature of my Grandfather (it would be really cool to make his paintings immersive […]

  17. Barbara says:

    J’ai connu ton grand-papa, je l’ai eu comme professeur à l’Ecole des Arts Décoratifs de Genève. Il m’a beaucoup aidée en son temps, en une période difficile pour moi. J’ai eu l’honneur de travailler pour lui à la décoration de la pièce Rhinocéros de Ionesco. J’ai beaucoup d’admiration pour lui, malgré le fait que la vie nous a séparé. Ton hommage est touchant.

  18. Katelin says:

    For years and years since I was a young child my mother had the print above our fireplace in the lounge of the see through young girls….. For years and years I have stared at that picture. It has been a big part of my life as it’s something I constantly look at and try to figure out…. It was such a big thing for me when my mother got the print, because I had never seen anything like it and it made my mind think in many ways it hadn’t before.
    Thank you.

  19. A.B says:

    I am a student of art history and I’m studying his art work. I’m focusing on his work Entre les trous de la memoire.

    I do not find bibliographic information about this painting and very little about his biography. So, thank you for your post!

    I wonder if you can provide me information about the interpretation of this work, because as an art historian, I need primary sources to validate my own interpretations.

    I have a great interest and admiration of his work and I would love to know more about his paitings and interpretations.

    Thank you very much in advance.



  20. Dixie says:

    Thank you so much for this page. I love your grandfathers artwork very much. I have had ‘Entre les trous de la memoire’ for over Thirty Years now and I also have another fine artwork of his ‘L’ Attente’ of which I too have had for over Thirty Years. I have them framed and placed in an area that when I receive visitors they are the first things they see when they walk in through the door. There has been alot of discussions about the pair as I think (so do my visitors) that they complement each other. Since finding this site I have not come across your grandfathers artwork ‘L’ Attente’, if you have any knowledge of this artwork could you please share with me the purpose (feedback) on this artwork it would be so much appreciated.

    Thank You..

  21. Geoff Sykes says:

    I think the world would be very grateful if you edited your grandfather’s Wikipedia entry, and perhaps populated a few articles about his paintings. Right now his article is just a stub, but as an artist he should have much more information about his career, personal life, influences, etc. Please consider editing his Wikipedia page!

  22. Tiefling says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I’m sorry to hear of your grandfather’s passing. I have Entre les Trous as a poster and it always reminded me of my childhood dreams.

  23. kstormplace says:

    My favorite painting of his was one titled in English: The Four Seasons. I had the poster mounted, but alas it disappeared on a move. I wish I could buy another copy. I do presently have Entre les trous de la memoire which is my second favorite of his work. He is a great artist!

    • jeromeyers says:

      Yes, I am very fond of The Four Seasons. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how to get posters at this time. It is, however, something I am interested in and will investigate.

  24. Duygu melek says:

    I’m sorry for your big loss. Your grandfather’s picture of’ the gaps in your memory’ for many years in our living room. Can you write down the name of the work that people found on the bridge in the venice carnival.stay in goodness.Duygu

  25. Thank you for writing about your grandfather in Geneva. I have always admired his work, you can examine it for hours. Fascinating paintings.
    It is lovely to see he lives on in his children and grandchildren. 🙂

  26. When I was 11 while i was working to the school, I saw a picture from your grandfather in a wholesale clothes store, i felt un love with, the most amazing and soft image i had even see before. I saved money and i bought It. Every time i have change my flat, “entre les trous de la memorie” comes with me.
    Now, i’ m 33, today i have discovered the name of the picture and of the painter in and old bookstore and thanks to you, i know a bit or something that forms part of my life.

  27. Kris says:

    I just learned of your grandfather’s passing. I’m very sorry for your loss. His art is incredible and he will live on.

  28. Lauren Black says:

    Thank you for describing the magic behind this painting. I am 25 years old & 25 years ago my parents bought the house they still live in today. As far as I can remember the painting “Entre les trous de la memoire” has been hung in my father’s study. As a child i found it fascinating and almost endless of surprises hidden within. In a way it reminded me of my father, abstract, full of secrets, well traveled, and subtly revealing stories about himself. Jokingly, I would say to him, “Dad when you die I want that painting.” My father is now in stage 4 of liver cancer and has less than a week predicted by his doctor. So tonight, I walked into his study and looked again at this painting. And maybe now because I’m older, studied a few languages, and seen more of the world that I finally read the title and artist’s name and decided to understand what was behind the magical scenery. When someone you love is dying it is so easy to want to know the answer. There may not be an answer but we always want to know why. Tonight I tried to find the answer to why the kids are disappearing? How is there a town, an ocean, and a glacier scene from one point of view? Whose photo is in the mirror? Why are the books set on fire? I hoped I would find an amazingly profound answer but in s way I’m happy I did not. Answers will not put you to piece, rather your imagination will bring you light and wonder. Thank you for sharing!

    • jeromeyers says:

      The answer is profound but hidden in the scratches that exist on the surface of the world. The answer can only exist abstractly in the mind of one who can see what is hidden in the scratches that history made upon the surface of what can be seen still today. Maybe at one among many levels that is what this painting and its title is about.

  29. Kris Verellen says:

    Thanks for making your grandfather known better to me…in my opinion one of the most fascinating painters of the last 100 years…I think I ‘ve been loving his work since about 40 years…you may be proud on him! Warm regards Kris Verellen, Antwerp, Belgium

  30. Emre says:

    Your grandfather’s painting are very influencing so your comments about them. Iwould like to hear(as in reading) more comments and feeling of yours about the painting. It makes them even more meaningful to me.

  31. 2gsmd says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I love the paintings that your Grandfather did. The words views and impact you shared are so deep and complex yet in the same very simple in the raw nature of natural form. RAW . ….. Right Alongside Wrong. .. You can not have one without the other which makes the balanced. Therefore, creating the difference to be equally the same.

    May the memories of your Grandfather always place a smile upon your face.

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