Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition by German artist Stephan Balkenhol. Balkenhol is recognized not only for the technical prowess with which he hand-carves wooden sculptures, but for his devotion to exploring the role of figuration within contemporary art.
Using a singular block of wood, Balkenhol creates his timeless works without the use of machinery. They retain the grooves, cracks, chips and fissures that reveal the sculpting process, demonstrating the artist’s raw and spontaneous treatment of the material. His process advances the longstanding tradition of woodcarving in Germany, inviting comparisons to sculptors such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Ernst Barlach.
Balkenhol’s anonymous figures are painted in simple colour combinations, appearing both living and inanimate, and devoid of emotion. The artist explains: “I don’t want talkative, expressive figures, which is why I seek an open expression from out of which all states are possible.” Whilst clothing or objects provide hints at potential narratives, the figures are liberated from moral, political and aesthetic precepts that frequently shape contemporary figuration.