My Highlights from ArtInternational 2014
This double-sided installation is a perfect example of Stephan Balkenhol’s wish to conciliate sculpture and painting. Or vice versa, to match scenes that have been executed pictorially and in two dimensions with freestanding, sculptural objects.
At the front side of the big screen is a male figure, hewn from the top part of a half tree trunk. He is standing in front of an abstract drawing that we – thanks to the coloured lines and surfaces – recognize as a map. The graphical and pictorial elements, that run also over the trunk, describe the partition and the structure of the landscape in which the man is situated. For the design of the landscape, Balkenhol took inspiration from the map of the area around the city of Kassel, Germany where he was born and currently partly lives and works. At the back of the screen we observe quite a different world. This time no individual figure, but a mass of people, rendered in perspective. Countless faces look at the spectator. It seems as if the spectator is on a stage and that the crowd, that has gathered in front of it, expects something from him of her.
Due to these different a spects the installation can more or less be considered as a self-portrait of the artist. He who as an internationally appraised artist, has a big audience and lots of admirers, withdraws into nature, into the countryside to work.
This type of freestanding installations appears more often in Balkenhol’s oeuvre than one would be inclined to think at first sight. The artist developed different variations of spatial works that consist of different panels, be it set up in the same plane, or folded, from the classical paravent or folding screen to the multifaceted concertina.
Stephan Balkenhol, La Halle Verrière, Meisenthal, FR, 2011
Stephan Balkenhol, Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, FR, 2010
Stephan Balkenhol, Deweer Gallery, Otegem, BE, 2010
Re-Opening - Volume II, Deweer Gallery, Otegem, Belgium, 2012, p. 18
Stephan Balkenhol, Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, France, 2010, p. 134-137
Stephan Balkenhol carves larger-than-life human figures from blocks of wood with traditional tools. The resulting sculptures are brought to life by the work of his chisel, creating gradations of highlights and shadows and lightly painted surfaces. Early examples of his work—male or female nudes attached to pedestals—echoed classical Greek statues; their carefully positioned features (the geometry of the lip, the curve of the eyebrow) and extraordinarily life-like relaxed postures belie their apparent simplicity. More recent works feature unremarkably dressed contemporary figures, rendered with enough detail to almost suggest three-dimensional portraiture. However, showing no signs of emotion and bearing no socio-critical references, they retain considerable banality. “I’m perhaps proposing a story and not telling the end, just giving a beginning or fragment. There is still a lot for the spectator to complete...,” Balkenhol explains.
German, b. 1957, Fritzlar, Germany, based in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Meisenthal, France