Stephan Balkenhol (1957, Fritzlar (Hesse), Germany). Lives and works in Karlsruhe, Germany and Meisenthal, France.
Stephan Balkenhol is an internationally renowned artist who has been concentrating on the human figure for over three decades. Balkenhol started his sculptural process of figurative wood carving in the mid-eighties. He attended the Hamburg School of Fine Arts from 1976–1982, where he studied under Ulrich Rückriem and was taught by Nam June Paik and Sigmar Polke.
As a response to the abstract, minimalist and conceptual approaches of the Hamburg School, the artist decided to concentrate on the figure—a quotidian, “everyday” persona, instead of an idol.
His totem-like sculptures of everyday people are reminiscent of both folk art as well as medieval sculpture. The figures emanate timelessness: simple, plain-coloured clothing and the confident yet unassuming poses of the everyday man. The artist uses a variety of woods, including poplar and Douglas fir, and crafting each work from single blocks using hammers, power saws, and chisels, leaving the shavings and traces of the tools visible in the wood with its knots, grain and cracks. He then uses paint to structure the sculpture and accentuate the anatomy, in no way heightening the figure’s expressiveness. The rough surfaces and cuts create a sense of a life force hidden inside the figures of seemingly apathetic humans — an evidence of the artist’s love of and faith in humanity.
“Figurative sculpture is often misused as a bearer of messages. In my vision my sculptures become a question, a mirror. And it is the viewer who fills it with meaning.”
Selected public collections:
The Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, USA
The Los Angeles County Museum, USAMOCA, Los Angeles, USA
The Art Institute of Chicago, USA
The Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, Germany
The Seattle Art Museum, USA
The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, USA
Eli Broad Foundation, Los Angeles, USA
Chase Manhattan Art Purchase Program, New York, USA
Johnson County Community College, Kansas, USA
Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, USA
Le CEAAC, Strasbourg, France
Mission Bay Community Center, San Francisco, USA
Pasadena Museum of California Art, Los Angeles, USA