Rudolf de Crignis, 2001
When Rudolf De Crignis went to art school in Zürich, painting was not allowed. The curriculum was based on the ideas of Josef Beuys, a progressive Düsseldorf professor whose teaching concerned "art and life," and whose artistic interests lay in the fields of performance and installations. After four years of study, De Crignis established a flourishing career in these media, only to find that his own artistic concerns were leading him in another direction.
It was not the first time De Crignis had changed course. Originally trained as a graphic designer, he worked for only a couple of years in this field before he began to "get in trouble," as he puts it, for following his own ideas. Art school was the next stop, followed by an active career that included receiving a number of important fellowships. The fellowship that was to have the most lasting influence on his work was one that brought him to New York in 1984. There he began to look more closely at painting, and decided that he must find a way to become a painter himself.
De Crignis' dissatisfaction with working in video and film had to do with the fact that the execution of his work in those media was based on ideas. He was and is more interested in process than in ideas, and was attracted to painting precisely because it would allow him to focus completely on process.
He was also attracted to New York, feeling from the first moment of his first visit there that that it was the place for him to be. After the year he spent on fellowship there, he returned to Switzerland, but with the intention to return to New York as soon as possible. A year and a half later, he was back in Manhattan, where he has lived and worked ever since. He describes the transition as difficult, but says he was lucky to have the support of friends who helped him get established in his new situation.
Untrained in painting, De Crignis worked hard to discover his own direction and the correct technique for expressing that direction. He cites exposure to the paintings of Newman, Rothko and Ryman as major influences, as well as dialogue with such colleagues as Radical Painters Marcia Hafif and Joseph Marioni. New York and its resources gave him the inspiration, determination and information he needed to establish a new career as a successful artist in the field of monochrome painting. He describes his main artistic concern as creating a space in which the viewer has freedom to open to the work and respond to it as an individual.
Born in Winterthur in Switzerland in 1948 to a poor family with little interest in or time for culture, De Crignis' first exposure to art was during his school's visits to museums founded by the town's industrialists. He was required to work from a very young age, and his initial training as a graphic artist was aimed at providing him with a profession. The process that led him from those beginnings to his present life as a highly respected monochrome painter has been a long one and has required the utmost in artistic integrity, expressed as the determination to follow his own artistic interests and concerns. That integrity is reflected in the extreme precision and delicate beauty of his work.