Stephan Balkenhol, ‘Reiter’, 1986-1996, Deweer Gallery

From all historical and artistic points of view, the ‘Reiter’ or ‘Rider’ is a conceptual inversion of all values of the equestrian statue as a genre, and as such a unique statement in its history.

Stephan Balkenhol’s equestrian statue also occupies a very early place in the artist’s oeuvre. The ‘Rider’ is the second sculpture Balkenhol realised for an outdoor presentation. The sculpture was originally made and modelled in colored cement for the temporary exhibition ‘Jenisch-Park-Skulptur’ in Hamburg, Germany in 1986, where it was installed in front of the Jenisch -Villa. It was at this exhibition that Mark Deweer acquired the sculpture from the artist. In 1996 and in agreement with the artist, Deweer Art Gallery produced a bronze cast from the cement original.

“With Stephan Balkenhol’s ‘Rider’ a series of associations sets off, that includes Marcus Aurelius’ portrait in Rome, the Bamberg Rider, the equestrian statues of the Italian Renaissance, the French royal equestrian monuments, and a large number of Prussian kings and German emperors. Up until today these equestrian sculptures, made in bronze or stone, by their scale characterize the cities where they are installed more than that they are able to reach their inhabitants’ historical consciousness. The figure Stephan Balkenhol made for the location in front of the Jenisch-mansion, is not the image of a ruler or a successful warlord.” (Bernd Ernsting, ‘Jenisch-Park Skulptur’, Kulturbehörde Hamburg, 1986, exh. cat.)

“With his ‘Reiter’, Stephan Balkenhol occupies a special place in the history of the equestrian statue. The way in which the horseman controls his horse – no rein, no saddle – is no longer a metaphor for political or military power. Balkenhol’s statue is not a portrait or an image, it is not a sign of power, it is a figure, but most of all – to quote Ulrich Rückriem about the work – it is a ‘picture’ (in the sense of ‘idea’) awaiting a meaning. The very fact that it lacks a clear literary meaning enables the artist to focus our attention on other aspects which, in their turn, may add new meanings to it. You have to be confronted with Balkenhol’s figures (in the sense of signs) to understand the primitive human urge to represent.
Balkenhol does not run the risk of landing either into a literary or a formal story. The theme of the equestrian statue is a reason rather than an aim. The instinctive impulse, i.e. that of giving shape to material, is more than strong enough to resist all supposed lack of contents.” (Jo Coucke in ‘Neue Deutsche Skulptur’, published by ICC-Internationaal Cultureel Centrum Antwerpen & Deweer Art Gallery, Otegem, 1986, exh. cat.)

“Balkenhol’s Reiter does not easily fit into the history of the official equestrian statue. This ‘Reiter’ is not a symbol of power, but an image in its own right. It seems as it is standing and waiting for its meaning.” (Catalogue ‘ECLiPS / 25th Anniversary Show’, Deweer Art Gallery, 2004)

“The equestrian sculpture does not blend in, but instead makes itself known by its smaller-than-life-size scale, its posture, its expression and last but not least its makeshift pedestal. Horse and rider stand together as the essence of stillness and repose. (Neal Benezra in ‘Stephan Balkenhol - Sculptures and Drawings’, exh. cat., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1996)

Deweer Gallery - Het portret van een familie, De Directeurswoning, Roeselare, BE, 2015
The Ever Changing Body Part I met o.a. / with a.o. Stephan Balkenhol, CC Strombeek, Strombeek-Bever, BE, Strombeek-Bever, BE, 2014
Intersezioni 3 - Balkenhol/Delvoye/Quinn, Parco Archeologico di Scolacium, Catanzaro, Italy, 2007
ECLiPS / 25 Jaar Deweer Art Gallery, Transfo Zwevegem, Zwevegem, Belgium, 2004

Tackle Climate Change - USE WOOD - Plant a Second Forest, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, 2012, p. 21
Stephan Balkenhol - Public, The Sculptures in Public Space, 1984-2008, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ost-fildern, Germany, 2009, p. 115
Stephan Balkenhol, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany, a.o., 2006, p. 164-165
ECLiPS, 25th Anniversary of Deweer Art Gallery, Transfo Zwevegem, Belgium, 2004
Den Haag Sculptuur, Den Haag, The Netherlands, 2004, p. 42-43
Stephan Balkenhol – Vor Ort, Ed. Andreas Franzke, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ost-fildern-Ruit, Germany, 2001, p. 88
Stephan Balkenhol: Plätze – Orte – Situationen, Ed. Andreas Franzke, Reihe Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1996
Benezra N., Stephan Balkenhol/Sculptures and Drawings, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1995-1996
Xth Anniversary Show, Deweer Art Gallery, Otegem, Belgium, 1989
Neue Deutsche Skulptur, ICC – Internationaal Cultureel Centrum, Antwerpen & Deweer Art Gallery, Otegem, Belgium, 1986
Jenisch-Park Skulptur, Kulturbehörde Hamburg, 1986

About Stephan Balkenhol

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