Canada Scholarship

Artist Hans Schweitzer celebrates his 80th birthday

“Mont Rouge” is what Hans Schweitzer called a series of paintings that now lean against the wall in Rottbach’s studio in the order in which they were created. The group of municipal works of the same name does not appear on the southern border of the capital, Paris, but rather huge buses operating in the Rotmonten district of St. Gallen.

Pictures of the bus were also hung in the Kunstzeughaus Rapperswil-Jona, where it was possible to view it in the solo exhibition “Here and Other Places” until the beginning of May. A display of Schweizer’s works should have opened ten years earlier in the Kunstzeughaus. But the show was cancelled. The artist no longer wanted “for personal reasons”. She worked on the artist’s 80th birthday, which the artist celebrates on May 24.

“I was supposed to be a painter,” says Ibn Najjar. When his father was a boy, he signed the buildings he was working on. In the Toggenburg children’s room, he hung life-size cowboys who were supposed to help him get an apprenticeship in St. Gallen. As a final test, the interior designer had to design a shop window. The topic was sports. From the head, Hans Schweitzer draws a horse as he used to design it out of paper.

sense of space

After his apprenticeship he moved to Paris. The 20-year-old was introduced to engraving in Johnny Friedlender’s workshop. “I also met Alberto Giacometti at the time,” Schweitzer says. He was not as fond of sculpture as his compatriot. “When I got to Paris, I had no idea about sculpting,” he says. After a student cried in Robert Couturier’s studio, the “director” said, “Regardez le Suisse. Il ne sait pas non plus. Mais il le fait quand meme.”

“If the form is gone, you are done,” the artist explains with some hurt. He confined himself to a few basic genres in his sculptures and diversified them extensively. But then he preferred to return to the graphics. “I don’t have a sense of depth, but of area.” Everyone had made a cerigraph. “It’s in the air. I didn’t have to think long.”

His ten years in Paris not only brought Schweitzer scholarship to Canada, but also gave his career a boost. This was followed by first solo exhibitions and awards, a longer stay in Berlin and invitations to international biennials. “The time I spent in France – the feeling of freedom – was very formative for me,” explains the painter.

From a bird’s eye view

“Self” – as the artist calls himself in his autobiographical drawings – loves to paint from a bird’s perspective – once he was a motorcyclist on the Pont de Saint-Cloud. It’s easy to imagine young Hans Schweitzer dashing through the streets of Paris in the ’70s with a Russian hat and a jean in the corner of his mouth.

The numerous acquaintances, which he develops intensively, are the same for Schweitzer. When we visit, we are greeted by a gray heron. Herons are patient hunters and often stand motionless and silent on one leg in deep water, waiting for prey.

This morning it looks like the bird was not so lucky. Over the small waterfall, it flies far over the hills. In his place, Hans Schweizer came out from behind the house. The former twisting mill in Strahlholz between Bühler and Gais has been the living and working place of the artist’s family for more than 30 years – the partner also has a workshop at home, and many of his children have studied art.

artist clan

amazing place. But Hans Schweitzer is no outdoor painter. He works in the studio almost exclusively. “I rarely use artificial light,” says the artist. Light and shadow present him with an almost endless array of subjects: nature, the sea, the city, its buildings, its inhabitants, helicopters over and over again. He is also not subject to trends when it comes to stylistic devices and techniques – which makes his art timeless. It creates moods with empty spaces and sets boundaries with clear strokes.

His works are always a test of the present, even if the choice of colors often does not correspond to reality: in the image of the Strahlholz train station, the meadow is red and the shelter is violet. Since 1999, he, along with his daughter Harlis, has invited Haj Schweitzer and partner Birgit and Destroyers to the station’s shelter. Even during the pandemic, the art station did not take a break.

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