Rudy Ernst
Artist Bio
  Rudy Ernst: A Life in Many Worlds   2009
  Rudy Ernst is a U.S. painter, sculptor, action painter, composer, filmmaker, poet and writer. His career marks the transition from the old (analog) world of European painting to the digital media of the 21st Century, and his extensive body of works fully reflects that profound changeover.

Johann Rudolf Othmar Ernst was born in 1937 into one of the leading Swiss banking and industrialist families of the ancient patrician city of Winterthur (Switzerland). His origins are deeply anchored in the quasi-feudalistic European world of the early 20th Century. He grew up in a rural village, next to the medieval city of Schaffhausen, which belonged to the church parish where Carl Jung's father was the pastor and where the famous psychologist spent the first years of his life. While growing up among farmers, Ernst also spent much of his formative years among the rich and famous of the world in the Swiss ski resort of Klosters, where his family moved every year from December to March, to spend three winter months on some of Europe's best ski slopes. It was also just a few miles from the place where Alberto Giacometti went to school and was influenced by those same mysterious tall pine trees that almost come alive as spooky giants against the snowy mountains in the middle of a long, clear and crispy full moon night.

To be a patron of the arts was a given in the Ernst family circles, but the possibility of ever having the only male descendant become a full-time career artist never crossed anybody's mind. Which is why, after pursuing other activities (including a Ph.D. in economics), Ernst was a latecomer to the scene of serious artists.

Early on, and throughout his life, Ernst drew many small, original surrealist line pictures by putting down his pen and never knowing what the outcome would be. Those creative small icons have come to be known as his 'Teenies,' his small 'Dreamland' or 'Dada Miniature' drawing.

During the second half of the 1970s, Rudy Ernst became a serious artist when he started interpreting his favorite Impressionist works from postcard-sized reproductions onto canvases of many different dimensions. He had grown up with many originals of these masterworks and was taught early on about Impressionist painting techniques. Now the Impressionist painters of the 19th century became his spiritual teachers by means of their works. Just as these masters had done a century earlier, Ernst also finished his works usually within hours or just a couple of days.

In 1982, Ernst immigrated with his wife and two sons to Manhattan and began painting his own subjects in the very same impressionistic style as the masters. But rather than just painting landscapes, Ernst developed a more personal approach by magnifying and distorting small objects and painting them onto his canvases under his artist name of 'Othmar Ernst.'

The next step in Rudy Ernst's painterly evolution was to project his dream world onto his canvases, while still maintaining his impressionistic style.


By 1989, Ernst has become a poor man. His art now undergoes a radical change. Since he cannot afford expensive art materials any longer, he begins painting and sculpting with inexpensive building materials, including roof tar, professional glues, gesso, etc. He attaches all kind of objects found in the streets of Midtown Manhattan onto large plywood sheet leftovers that he comes across at construction projects in his neighborhood. He glues them together and builds large sculptures from self-woven family linen, ship ropes and potato bags of jute cloth. Later, he shall remember this period as the most intense of his artistic career, as it also marks the first break-through onto his subconscious level.

Rudy Ernst has become his own observer of what happens in what he calls his 'guts.' It is in disbelief that he realizes how his new works have not only become dark and monochrome, but also show distinct religious elements, of which he has been unaware, since - in spite of his upbringing - he has never been a religious person.

Ernst is frantically painting a series of works on paper, using just three colors: medium cadmium red, deep cadmium yellow, and greenish phtalo blue. He uses titanium white, but mixes black from blue, red and a touch of yellow, a technique he learned from the Impressionist masters. He also does a number of sculptures of different scales and calls these works 'Between Spirit and Matter.'


During the early 1990s the world begins to show serious signs of becoming globally digitized. Ernst, who grew up with slide rules and multiplication tables, has had a lifelong fascination with technological advancements. He now begins to learn and integrate the new digital technologies into his traditional artwork. His son, Rudi Jr., who has become the director of the ABC / Disney New Media Center in New York, helps computerizing his first multi-media art installation, 'Project Mysterialism.' It will be part of Ernst's series 'Between Spirit and Matter.'

In 1997 Rudy Ernst makes his first animated digital film, created on an SGI Computer with the help of his friend Bill Shepard. That same year he joins ArtNet as one of its first customers.

By the turn of the Century, Ernst has become fully computer literate. He has learned 'Photoshop' and does a series of 200 unique computer manipulated images of his own traditional artwork, which he exhibits in several prime New York locations and at the Kodak Headquarters in Rochester, New York. He calls this technique 'Computer Aided Art', or CAA.

In 2002 Ernst takes on the difficult task of learning and familiarizing himself with the filmmaking tools of 'Final Cut Pro.' It is a target that takes him several years to achieve, but gives him the freedom to direct, shoot and edit his own films and to compose his 'Sound Symphonies.'


By 2005 Rudy Ernst has achieved his goal of being an accomplished multi-media artist. He has become comfortable in many different media, including works of super-large dimensions, many of them including elements of computer-generated images, and he freely navigates among them.

Since 1994, Ernst has been composing a series of musical pieces, the latest of which is what he considers his own requiem, bearing the title 'Sound Symphony of my Life.'


Over the years, Ernst has become increasingly worried about the growing discrepancy between the economic and political realities and what the common citizen is spoon-fed to believe by our steady political 'Breaking News' hype. Since 2008 these developments have prompted him to become a self-proclaimed Dadaist. He reinvents the word Dada and realizes that it applies retroactively to many of his past artworks.

In 2009, Ernst does a series of 'Dada-Action Paintings' on super large canvases, including one of 80-foot x 83-inch, which he paints in just 90 minutes at the fabulous QCC Art Museum/Gallery in Queens, New York. More of such action painting sessions are now scheduled.


For forty years Rudy Ernst has also been a feverish writer. The latest manuscript, under the working title of 'Breaking News: The Dada-Gene,' is scheduled to be published by late 2009/early 2010.

Ernst has lived in many radically different cultures and economic fields. He is fluent in German, French, English and Spanish languages and intimately familiar with all of those cultures. Such uniquely diverse life experiences are reflected not only in his art, but also in his spiritual thoughts and writings.

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