14 July – 01 September 2007
Stephan Balkenhol’s work concentrates on the objective representation of the human figure. The life-sized human figure and head, carved from blocks of wood, epitomize his creations. In addition to his solitary human figures and groups of figures, Balkenhol occasionally represents animals, plants, or other motifs. Besides his pedestal figures, Balkenhol also displays wooden murals. In a more recent group of works, he combines sculpture and relief. His sculptures are made from wood that is coarsely cut and processed with traditional tools. They invariably show, as their integral parts, the traces of work and their materiality, a frugal painting accentuates their corporeal volume. A marked tension between roughness and precision characterizes Balkenhol’s works. His unpretentious artistic language authoritatively establishes the essential character of his art.
Balkenhol’s creations incorporate a superindividual image of human and animal. His figures reveal their proximity to portraiture, but also the necessary amount of universality. Balkenhol stylizes his works neither in an expressionistic nor a naturalistic direction. His works possess a certain sketchy quality. Liberated from their context, without any identifiers of subjective orientation or emotions and free of personal or sociological references, his figures seem archetypal. In relation to sculptural traditions in art history, Balkenhol cites the established representational modalities for rulers and dignitaries. By moving within this artistic context and employing the representational conventions of this genre, he places his images of anonymous individuals in a similar position. The contemporary average person seems aggrandized, raised to the level of monument. Balkenhol finds an exemplary formulation for modern man in his sculptural work. The universalizing indeterminacy of his works concretizes an essentially postmodern attitude towards life.
Stephan Balkenhol is one of the internationally most significant contemporary German sculptors. His sculptures are exhibited in prominent public spaces. His works have become unmistakable and still maintain the power to fascinate. In the summer exhibit at the Johnen Galerie Berlin, Balkenhol will show his recent pieces.
Born in Fritzlar, Hessen, Balkenhol lives and works in Karlsruhe and Meisental, France.