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Drama and art
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Drama and art

It’s not just the eyes that run in the Müller family. Actress Deborah Müller and her father, artist Ernst Müller, have far more in common than that: their deep-seated passion.

He would describe himself as a sociable guy, and she would simply say she is “die Debby va Lana” (literally, “Debbie from Lana”), but there is far more to them than that: Ernst Müller is a renowned artist who is famous far beyond Italy, and his daughter Deborah is a popular actress in Munich. Even though the two of them are really busy most of the time, spending some time together back home is far from boring for them, because turning the lives of “Tata” and his “Poppa” into a book would fill volumes.

Passion is a big word for your family – passion for the stage and passion for the paintbrush. But what does passion actually mean to you?
Ernst: Passion is something that takes over. During one of my painting phases, I may well spend eight to ten hours in a row in my workshop and not leave the house at all. In those moments, painting is everything to me; there’s nothing that could stop me.
Deborah: Yes, it unleashes a lot of energy. It’s the same for me when I’m on stage. I use my body to express myself, while my father uses his paintbrushes. But the passion behind these different forms of expression is the same.
Ernst: The only thing that matters is to never stop criticising
yourself in spite of all the passion involved.

Are you just as self-critical as your dad?
Deborah: I think that others like working with me because
I’m good at getting a certain atmosphere across with my acting. I think that’s because I’m often not happy with my performance and keep on rehearsing until I feel that I got it right. Only then can I get these special vibes across. If not, I have to go for something else. And the same is true for dad’s paintings.

Ernst Müller is self-taught. He started painting when he was 14 years old and is now 65 years old.
deborah-mueller-2
Ernst, I was told you’re self-taught. Is that true?
Ernst: That’s right. I attended a holiday class once, but for me it just doesn’t make sense to sit down and draw a jug placed in front of you. I’ve been painting for more than 50 years now, and, to be honest, I’m a little proud of that. I never painted because I wanted to make money from it. I paint because I enjoy it. I didn’t have teachers. I was the one deciding what to do and how to go about it.

Is Ernst stubborn? How would you describe him, Deborah?
Deborah: Not stubborn, no, but pretty ambitious, I would say. Family is very important to “Tata” and he is a very social guy – somebody you can always rely on. If I rang him today to tell him that I’m a little under the weather, he would be the first to come over and help me out. He’s always there to support me, and I really appreciate everything he does for me.
Ernst: Our health and our family are our greatest assets, and you have to support your family. Family is more important than money could ever be.

And how would you in turn describe Deborah?
Ernst: All I need to do is look in the mirror, and I’ll see “Poppa” staring right back at me. (They both laugh.)
Deborah: Gosh, I’m so handsome! (laughs even louder)

So you two have a lot in common? Is that what you’re trying
to say?

Ernst: Yes, we’re both full of energy and ambition.

You’re a passionate alpinist. I’m sure energy and ambition are two character traits that come in handy when climbing a mountain, right?
Ernst: They sure do. When you want to climb a summit, you have to get body, mind and soul in harmony. And life is just the same; it’s full of ups and downs. Only later will you realise that you had to fall before you could rise up to the next challenge. But you must never lose heart. If we did, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Yet, in arts, you will never really reach the summit. You don’t have a final destination. Your work is undergoing constant change and evolution. Your work is what you leave behind for future generations.
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And what would you like to leave behind in your paintings?
Ernst: South Tyrol’s ancient architectural structures that got lost over time. Sure, some of the old farms had to be torn down, but many of them were demolished to erect new, modern buildings. That’s a pity. Over the last 35 years, I’ve immortalised those farms in my paintings in a race against time.

Talking about his works of art, Ernst Müller starts gesticulating vividly and his blue eyes suddenly turn dark.

Where do you work?
Ernst: I always dreamed of having my own studio, but never
really thought I would have one someday. But I got lucky and put a lot of hard work and faith in God into this project, and we’re now sitting right outside my “Schlössl” (literally, “little castle”), the largest existing Müller sculpture.

Ernst Müller gives me a tour of his “Schlössl”, an old building he meticulously renovated and converted. His studio is located on the ground floor: colourful canvases, paints, photos and models, and a huge portrait of Pope Ratzinger wearing a red coat right in the middle of the room. Standing next to the portrait, Ernst Müller rummages through some old photos and tells me stories from his life.


Do you like telling others about yourself, Ernst?
Ernst: What really matters in life is to be self-confident while not emphasising the word “I” too much.
Deborah: (smiling) This is what my father taught me, to stay
down-to-earth. This is what people like about me. Some people can’t believe that I’m still the person I used to be. (Deborah looks at her father.) He has always been my role model. I always wanted to be like my “Tata”, and I realise I’m becoming more and more like him – thank goodness.
Deborah Müller is a trained social care worker and started out as an actress at the age of 24. She attended the Neue Münchner Schauspielschule (New Munich Drama School) and is now a popular actress performing in many commercials, stage plays, movies and TV series abroad.

Ernst Müller is an artist and father of three children. His works in oil are paintings “of the soul”. He was born in Vinschgau valley and is a self-taught painter constantly improving and refining his arts. His favourite motif is farms, for which he often uses a palette knife to add many colourful layers to his paintings.
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