Susanne Bieri
«Visible», catalog Prints and Drawings Department of the 
Swiss National Library, Bern 1998  (Deutsch)

In his work, "Bourne Pencil Threads – Four Paintings," Rudolf De Crignis resorts to 
the portfolio form, a folder containing four sheets. They are four square sheets of 
thin cardboard on which a specific layering of lines drawn with pencils of varying 
grades and eraser technique have left a near–invisible, almost indiscernible "pencil–
rubber texture." The above–mentioned form of presentation affords the necessary 
framework which serves both as a cover and a stage: only when the curtain is raised, 
the covers lifted, can this fragile object be given the required attention. 
A spontaneous intimacy is thus established between viewer and object.

Almost thirty years ago, in 1969, Jan Dibbets used a tractor to "draw" precise 
furrows in trapeze form onto a carefully selected piece of sandy beach on the Dutch 
coast. A static camera filmed this process, recording the nascence of a rectangle 
which, when projected, was exactly congruous to the edges of the screen. The camera's 
wide–angle lens had effected a perspectival correction of the real trapeze in the 
sand. When the virtual rectangle or the real trapeze shape were completed, the 
drawing was slowly but inexorably erased from and in parallel with the top edge of 
the screen–the rising tide was reclaiming the territory of the season which now 
became visible, in black and white, the diffuse motion of the water with a regularly 
patterned surface in varying tones of gray. 

While Rudolf De Crignis' "Bourne Pencil Threads – Four Paintings" is not transformed 
into film as is Jan Dibbet's piece, "12 hours tide object with correction of 
persepective," there is nevertheless a conspicuous kinship between the two works in 
that an already executed gesture is obliterated, signalling the evident intention to 
retract the means of expression, or to de–materialize them. In either case, this 
result is achieved by means of an extremely effort–intensive technique. 

In the first stage, tracks are laid. Using a pencil one grade per sheet Rudolf De 
Crignis draws lines running parallel to the edge of the sheet, from one edge to the 
other, similar to Jan Dibbets' screen, but with countless lines filling the sheet 
completely. Then the pencil traces are partially erased using a rubber eraser. To do 
this, the sheet may be turned this way and that the frequency and degree of the 
turning motion depending on the artist's intuitional decision. This erasing causes 
smudging; the resulting indefinition creates the impression of pencil and rubber 
being intertwined with the paper. In subsequent stages, this process is repeated so 
many times until the superimposed layers create a vibrant effect resulting in the 
most delicate nuances of color in the graphite. 

Theoretically, the criss–crossed layers of pencil and rubber could be counted; but in 
actuality they can only be guessed at since the last layer is always rubbed out. 
As the title of this work says, the result is called "painting" rather than 
"drawing," as might be expected. The artist chose this title because his works on 
paper and his blue oil paintings, another important field of activity, are identical 
in structure. The title can also be justified by the optical effect in the works on 
paper in fact, a parallel to the moving, diaphanous water surface in Jan Dibbets. The 
materials used appear to be entwined in such a way that it is difficult to say what 
technique was employed.

Another interesting aspect in the works of Rudolf De Crignis and Jan Dibbets is the 
form of presentation. The subtlest conditions are required for Rudolf de Crignis' 
extremely minimalistic pencil–rubber works almost indistinguishable at first sight 
and, moreover, placed next to a blank sheet of paper of the same format, showing 
little more than that to be viewed and perceived properly. His paper pieces are 
presented in a precise and plain horizontal arrangement, on a chalk ground without 
any protection. If they are to be put away, or as in our case if a series of four is 
to be handed over to a collection, the appropriate "transportation vehicle" needs to 
be found. In this case, it is a cover of thin cardboard, much like the sheets 
themselves. One of the covers bears the impression of the title, the other one the 
artist's name and the year in which the piece was created, similar to the opening 
credits in Jan Dibbets' work. Either artist, then, makes use of an additional medium 
screen or folded cover which becomes a more or less immediate constituent of the 
work. Such unobtrusive things as the section of a sea–view, or a radically restrained 
pencil drawing are ennobled and require our concentrated attention. It becomes clear
that a piece like "Bourne Pencil Threads – Four Paintings" was made in a specific 
context and needs to be perceived accordingly: depth, light and space are important 
notions in Rudolf De Crignis' works. They are the parameters of the intended effect, 
referring to physically almost imperceptible phenomena traditionally achieved by 
illusionistic methods of drawing or painting. Turning his back on this tradition, 
Rudolf De Crignis generates through structure the experiential space that needs to be 
comprehended by the viewer, a structure that, to be consistent, can only be 
represented in its de–materialized form, by being erased. Paradoxically, it is 
precisely the minute traces of graphite left behind on the paper that represent the 
absence of materiality.