Helmut Federle was born in 1944 in St. Margrethen, Switzerland. He studied at the School of Applied Arts in Basel 1964-69. After that, he lived in Tunisia and the United States for some time. Since then, he has continued to travel, visiting Japan, North Africa, and the US, among other places. He currently lives and works in Vienna, Austria, and Camaiore, Italy.
For the last more than 40 years, Helmut Federle has built up an oeuvre characterized by a geometric and painterly style that is inherently spiritual, emblematic, intellectual, and close to nature. His works combine constructivist arrangements with painterly, otherworldly pictorial spaces that are not only associated with subjective perceptions, but also strive toward universality. His painterly compositions are expressions of a strong system of meaning and thus evade purely formal interpretation. Parallel to his painting, he has also created a large number of drawings.
His extensive travels have had an immense impact on his artistic work, transforming him into a collector of artefacts, rugs, ceramics, and so forth primarily by Native Americans, from Northern Africa, and Japan, some of which he has also occasionally included in his exhibitions.
Helmut Federle has had solo exhibitions at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel, the Kunsthalle Zurich, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Friedercianum in Kassel, the Galerie national der Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Kunstmuseum Bonn, as well as the Kunsthaus Bregenz. He also represented Switzerland at the 47th Venice Biennale in 1997. By this time, he had become internationally well-known primarily for his large geometrical paintings. However, his smaller pictures have also been exhibited many times in the last decade—for example, in the major exhibition American Songline in the Kunstmuseum Luzern in 2012-13.
His works can be found in many museums and private collections, including the Kunstmuseum Bonn, the Tate Modern in London, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Goetz Collection in Munich.
Helmut Federle received the Prix Aurelie Nemours in 2008 and was awarded the Ricola Prize in 2016.