KUNSTFORUM Vol. 142 October - December 1998    International

Reinhard Ermen

Rudolf de Crignis
Colour Paintings
Galerie S65 Aalst (Belgium), 9/12 - 10/24/1998  (Deutsch)

The actual process of painting is preceded by intensive preparations. Again 
and again, square canvases are primed with white, sanded down and primed 
again until a precise, spotless body is achieved, resembling a block of chalk 
as the edges are treated the same way as the actual painting surface. Onto 
this Rudolf de Crignis (a Swiss who has lived in New York for the last 10 
years) places thin, glazing layers of blue, or rather ultramarine: a sequence 
that is occasionally interrupted by veils of other colors. One painting for 
example - to which the intelligently made catalogue (text by Sabine Müller) 
is devoted exclusively - is constructed with ultramarine blue, zinc white and 
finally a layer of citron-yellow. But the elaborate process of painting - 
which may place as many as 38 layers on the ground and extend over a period 
of several weeks - always returns to ultramarine. 
For the image-cultivating Ives Klein blue (=IKB) was a vehicle, a door to the 
transcendental, but de Criginis's paintings are hardly reminiscent of his 
work, as they revolve too much around the stubbornness of painting as a 
medium. Its (inevitable) transcendence is recruited less from the one 
dominant hue (the effects of which have their own history of interpretation), 
but rather from the process or passage which as compressed time co-produces 
the material effect without being intrusive. Much is comprised in these 
paintings, with which the painter has been preoccupied for the last six 
years.  The beautiful precision, or to put it differently: an intuitively 
correct treatment with intellectual guidelines holds the overwhelming blue 
together. The color almost appears to be swimming on the chalky block, it may 
even overflow its banks as a discrete trace indicates on the chalk base which 
mediates between wall and painting.  There is never a simulation of massive 
heaviness though and there is no question that the block is a stretcher 
wrapped by the canvas. Lightness is one of the naturally co-occuring 
characteristics of this style of painting which can breathe freely - 
figuratively speaking. The various glazing veils permit and make possible the 
view to the bottom of the painting without revealing the silky shimmering 
relief with its gentle, exact brush movements. In a way the eye follows the 
light which by day opens up entire areas of color and causes a vibration of 
the contrasting layers of other colors. Still, the great ultramarine miracle 
is never in danger.
The intent of these paintings is not at all new but by an extreme power of con
centration, radical limitation and classical balance are successfully 
combined in them. Such a thing is rare enough in contemporary art, even 
though painting - often written off - ought to be predestined to these kind 
of syntheses.  Here, the timelessly radicalized classicity goes so far as to 
make the omnipresent blue forget itself (at times).  When comparing the 
paintings which are practically devoid of any hierarchies - apart from the 
different masses - the contrasting layers of other colors suddenly become the 
all-distinguishing factor and de Crignis repeatedly speaks of "green", 
"yellow", or "red" paintings himself.  Some time ago, "black" paintings - in 
this sense - existed as well.  The conditio sine qua non (= ultramarine) 
dissolves in the community of almost identical individuals.  But as soon as 
the observer is alone with one of these sensitive shapes, there is nothing 
else but blue. Overpowering without the esthetics of overpowering!  Only the 
view of the frame, in those spots where layers of paint have overflown the 
banks, can prove that beneath this color, other forces were at work too.