His works explore the tradition of classical sculpture and repeatedly investigate new aesthetics such as contextual facets. He has succeeded in doing this by developing basic types that appear in manifold variations. His sculptures seem to derive from our reality. We can clearly specify their apparel or stance, and yet these figures, that do not show any emotion, remain oddly enigmatic, anonymous and fictitious, whereby they radiate their incomparable fascination.
For the first time in Austria, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg is displaying the largest show ever of the works of artist Stephan Balkenhol in a monographic exhibition of over 100 exhibits. Balkenhol is considered a pioneer in contemporary figurative sculpture and is one of the internationally most reknowned artists from Germany. Born in 1957 in Hessian Fritzlar, Germany, Balkenhol already began making sculptures out of wood during his studies at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg. In the process, he fathoms sculptural traditions in their aesthetic and contextual facets, soon discovering his own language of expression.
Often made from mighty tree trunks or as larger-than-life-sized sculptures set on pedestals, Balkenhol shows his preference for anonymous figures – men and women, as well as animals and plants, which do not reveal, tell or represent anything. There are individual figures, groups of figures and sculptural creations designed in relief. Balkenhol, who enjoys placing his sculptures in unusual locations in public urban places, counteracts the tradition of the monument by not honouring the ruler, hero or thinker, but instead showing the average, commonplace, normal and anonymous. The seemingly inconspicuous figures do not show any emotion and remain strangely absent, difficult to grasp, enigmatic and fabricated. Neither their age nor their social position can be guessed. When viewing the works, recognition mixes with doubt, and comfortable familiarity with the disturbingly strange. By largely doing away with a psychological dimension, Balkenhol’s figures always act as a mirror reflecting the feelings, desires and hopes of the viewer.
“It’s all about concentrating everything”, remarks Balkenhol. “I want everything together at the same time: sensuality and expression, but not too much, vividness, but no surface garrulity. (...) The figure should rise above itself and tell of things above and beyond itself.”
The artist’s sculptures can be seen in public spaces in London, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg and other places. Stephan Balkenhol lives in Karlsruhe and Lothringen. Since 1992, he has had a professorship at the State Kunstakademie in Karlsruhe. This exhibition was conceived for the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, and was adapted and expanded for the spaces in MKM Küppersmühle in Duisburg and the Museum der Moderne Salzburg. The curators for the exhibition in Salzburg are Toni Stooss and Tina Teufel.
Snoeck-Verlag, Cologne, has published an extensively illustrated catalogue with texts by Matthias Winzen and Harriet Zilch. The catalogue costs €38.00 and is available in the Museum Shop.
Opening: 17 february 2007
Museum der Moderne
Moenchsberg 32 - Salzburg