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Spotlight, Rudolf de Crignis

The title of a De Crignis' exhibition may suggest that the viewer will see paintings in a variety of colors, but in fact they are all blue. That is, the surface color of all of de Crignis' paintings is blue. Some of the underlying layers are of different colors, and therein lies the secret of the subtle differences in hue that become apparent if one sees a number of his paintings together.

Beginning with a finely sanded layer of white gesso, De Crignis builds up each painting with a multitude of layers, alternating horizontal brush strokes in one layer with vertical strokes in the next, creating a bare suggestion of cross-hatching. The surface is in fact quite smooth, however, and De Crignis emphasizes that no sanding or scraping is involved, only extremely slow and meticulous brushwork. Almost all the layers are ultramarine blue, with an occasional layer of another color. The result of this painstaking process is a variety of subtly different blues, all of which are electric in their intensity.

The gray pieces  have a number of very thin layers of complementary colors (light green and flesh color, for instance) layered close to the surface, which gives the suggestion of a light gray undertone. De Crignis describes the effect of the gray as making the painting a bit more opaque than pieces in which the intermittent layers are of a primary color or are placed further back in the painting. He notes that the colors in the gray series are earthier than the ones he has used before, more subdued.

But color is not De Crignis' main interest. He says that he wants to "give the viewers a space where they can breathe and explore themselves." For him, color is a vehicle or a catalyst, used, as he says, "to create this space, this light." The viewer is indeed drawn into the quiet intensity of a De Crignis painting. In the words of Swiss curator Beat Wismer, De Crignis' paintings are "worked with a delicacy that lies on the brink of visibility....Instead of trying to define what beauty is for those who ask, let us reply, with Goethe, but I can show you."

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