In Linz everyone interested in culture mentally associates Kristian Fenzl with Industrial Design of a certain quality that can hardly be surpassed. He is pleased when he sees Rosenbauer fire engines on many airports of this world and knows: they were designed by K. Fenzl. He is less pleased when he needs the breakdown service for his car stranded on the road, and he is predominantly glad he is being helped after all. He will hardly notice that Fenzl designed the aid's vehicle. He will have a similar experience - but under a distinctly more positive sign - when having winter sport fun. On his trip downhill he will have already forgotten the Fenzl-Design of the cable car.
In all three cases the agreeable form of the means of transport will create a pleasant atmosphere, but it will be noticed very little that they function perfectly. It is taken for granted. This tells us a great deal about Fenzl's work - even if it is far from being everything - even If we speak about his new pictures. But the name Kristian Fenzl also reminds us of the University of Fine Arts in Linz where he taught as professor for product design for a long period of time, because his artistic career virtually reflects the history of this institute, in its diversity, but also in its contrariness, even if he had nothing to do with its beginnings. For at that time (1947) he was only one year old and not even in Linz but in Leonstein near Steyr (Upper Austria). According to the politicians' wishes the new school - by having all the freedom of teaching - was primarily geared towards applied arts. The prototype was the Bauhaus in Weimar (later Dessau) founded in 1919, and it was all about the melting of industry and design (then called product design). You did not have to go far for that, because the armament industry of the NS-era that had come to life not even a decade ago was supposed to be changed into peaceful production. Other groups were of the opinion that a cultural counter-pole should be created against the superiority of industry. It has prevailed, even though Wolfgang von Wersin was called to the academy as designer.
Meanwhile, Kristian Fenzl grew up in Steyr and studied at the Academy for Applied Arts in Vienna. For the time being his path of life was predestined, but not his creative horizon. Being interested In foreign cultures and travelling as a "backpacker" - that was common behaviour for the generation after 1968 - he ended up studying at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), and the result was a lifetime engagement with ethno art of the so-called black continent from which in turn the Institute of Ethno Design resulted. Finally, his employment as assistant lecturer at the University of Fine Arts in Linz followed and later his previously mentioned professorship.
In 1990 he organized the Provincial Exhibition "Genesis and the modern" at the New Gallery Linz, and for the first time he became famous with "Nordico" in 1991 when he created an appealing architectural ambiance for the presentation" Italian drawings of the 16th century" which was hardly an easy task. In 1993 "The Dutch drawings of the 17th and 18th century" also followed which received figures that were intuitive, reduced in colour and flexible In form. For the jubilee in 1999 he created "Linz Genesis" in the Old Town Hall, a permanent exhibition dealing with the history of Linz which up till now has been acknowledged by even the strongest critics. A completely different challenge was the artistic design of the restored and revitalized Old Town Hall in Linz for which he consulted numerous regional and national artists.
Looking at the diversity of his work, what is so significant about Kristian Fenzl? How can he manage it all and above all, why during the last few years has he entered the field of visual arts, especially painting?
Primarily, there is his talent for organizing and his willingness to get to the bottom of every assignment and every task given to himself; dealing with vehicles he wants to know their exact function and purpose, when organizing exhibitions he wants to understand the subject matter of the presentation and, if possible, cater to the customers' wishes. The collected results subsequently are neither a burden nor an obstacle when creatively converting it into design but it rather is motivation and opportunity at the same time. They come together as colour and form, create suspense where possible and qUiet zones where necessary. All his drafts, concepts and artistic performance wouldn't have been possible if his sure understanding of the equal concurrence of space, form and colour hadn't been their sponsor. Fenzl was not only always very diligent but also on schedule which doesn't always have to correlate with artists. During an interview he never made a big deal out of his works of art or his interpretation of art. In each case the results spoke for themselves. Therefore, it is also not astonishing that less than a few knew of the fact that Kristian Fenzl has always been drawing and painting ad lib besides his design assignments. He didn't go public with that. So today, he confronts us with a skill that somewhat astonishes everyone interested in culture, the group described in the introduction. Thus, from his paintings it becomes instantaneously clear that he masters the canvas as well as the space In design. Moods and colours on an even surface become the depth of landscapes which seem recognizable, yes, even distinctly familiar.
The former Linz School of Art has become a university for artistic and industrial design. Kristian Fenzl has made his way the other way around and has transformed himself from international designer to painter.
Dir. Dr. Willibald Katzinger, Keynote at Nordico 2006