Against the art-historical background of abstract sculpture dominant in the past 25 years, Stephan Balkenhol has been developing, since the beginning of the 80s, a position in which questioning the possibility of figurative sculpture is again of interest.

Born in 1957, Balkenhol studied at the Hamburg Art Academy from 1976 to 1982 under Ulrich Rückriem and was his long-time assistant. This very intense relationship to his teacher is barely perceivable in his work, although the expression of his figures resting in themselves can be regarded as a distant reminiscence. On the other hand, judging Balkenhol's artistic approach merely as a reaction to the concepts of minimal art and conceptual art does not go far enough.

Stephan Balkenhol is a sculptor in the traditional sense - a statement that becomes naturally evident in view of his statues of humans and animals. A naturalness which also characterises the expression of his figures which confront the viewer without false pathos, theatrical gestures, or expressivity. At the same time, the process of their creation remains visible, a process which does not reproduce the reality of a model, but is to be understood as an approach to images which enables the experience of reality in a direct relationship of subject and object, without the detour of metaphor or symbol. In the end, Balkenhol's sculptures are investigations into the state of being preserved in timeless presence.

The exhibition at Portikus was organised in co-operation with the exhibition halls in Basle and Nuremberg. Here, the installation of Balkenhol's work "Hexagon and Frieze", created this year, is shown. It comprises a six-part group of male figures showing various postures in a staggered arrangement of three scales, and a frieze of twenty poplar-wood panels in low relief depicting humans and animals also in various postures.

Photos: Katrin Schilling