Stephan Balkenhol (born in Fritzlar, Germany, in 1957) is the premier
spirit behind the revival of figurative sculpture in the early 1980s.
He began making his trademark figurative sculptures in response to the
abstract, minimalist and conceptual strategies of the Hamburg Academy of
Fine Arts, on a heritage that ranges from early Christian sculpture to
Modernism. Stephan Balkenhol’s work is characterised by his colourfully
painted and roughly hewn wooden sculptures and reliefs. Balkenhol’s
motifs are larger-than-life or dwarflike men, women and animals, heads
and hybrid figures of humans and animals sculpted from huge tree trunks.
The same tree trunks also serve as the plinths, which are inseparably
joined to the figure.
Marks made by the tools, grooves, fissures and cracks remain visible,
testifying to the working process. This does not preclude a strong
sense of realism, reinforced by the treatment of contours, the pose of
the figures and the way they are painted.
In stoic poses, they seem to be in a state of suspended animation,
gazing into emptiness or at a point unknown to the observer. Thus the
figures remain distant, anonymous and enigmatic, and strangely lacking
in emotion. The observer feels reminded of something, only to doubt his
perception a moment later. This creates a feeling of discomfiture
because the hyper-individual and timeless figures hold up a mirror to
Not only the men and the women but also the animals reveal nothing
about themselves; they tell no stories and represent nothing. They are
inconspicuous, ageless and difficult to pin down; they show no emotions
and appear curiously detached. They are simply there, serenely
self-contained, as if gazing into the void; they are always the same and
always new. Enigmatic, nameless and timeless, they are both
distinctively personal and blandly anonymous. By eschewing psychological
implications, the artist brings to the fore archetypical patterns of
existence and emotions, so that his figures – especially those in public
spaces – also function as mirrors that reflect viewers’ feelings,
desires and hopes.
Stephan Balkenhol ranks among Germany’s most renowned international
sculptors. Since 1992 he has been a professor at the State Academy of
the Arts in Karlsruhe. Stephan Balkenhol has been represented by Mai 36
Galerie since 1989. His works, regularly on view internationally since
the 1980s, enjoy eye-catching presentation in public space in a number
of major cities.
Opening hours Tues-Fri 11 am – 6:30 pm, Sat 11 am – 4 pm
Mai 36 Galerie