Stream of ideas

Where do the ideas for my sculptures come from? The best thing about them: they never run out. A short visit to the source, to the wind sisters and three clueless kings.

Sometimes I run out of wood, pigment or sharpened chainsaws, but I never run out of ideas. Only once an idea is realised do I know whether it is any good.  Until then, I cannot be sure: taking notes, sketching, rejecting.

Connecting to the source
Years ago, I realised that I am surrounded by a constant stream of ideas. If I do what inspires me, then I am in a place where ideas keep flowing. It’s a relief to find that it’s not «me» who has the ideas. The ideas have me— if they want to and if I am open.

Sure, even now I sometimes feel stressed when I put myself under pressure for a competition or an exhibition jury. Sometimes I am in the creative flow, at other times outside of it. Certain activities help me connect and open the door to the Source. Activities such as letting go (easier said than done), singing, dancing, visiting exhibitions or other artists, reading, travelling, hiking, caring for plants, cooking.

There is nothing special about it — we can all do it in our own way. In my life as a sculptor, there are three realms where ideas start flowing again and again. I simply need to open my eyes …

… in everyday life
In the morning, I take the train to my studio. Sometimes the flow of people coming towards me within the confines of the station annoys me. Other times, I marvel at the people surrounding me: at how they hold their smartphone, their newspaper, a child. The variety of gestures and attitudes we take at any given time on life’s stage amazes me. If I see something that I would like to depict I add it to my collection of sketches.

On the train, I tear a portrait photo from the newspaper: the writer’s facial expression and her posture touch me. During a trip to Berlin, I notice a postcard from Deutsches Theater: how cheeky and cool is the pose of the actress, with her cardboard crown and index finger. I close Bernhard Schlink’s novel «Olga» and know: the image on the cover will be added to my collection of sketches.

The newspaper portrait became the «Muse»:

The postcard inspired the three clueless kings:

The book illustration placed four «Wind Sisters» in a stiff breeze:

Most of the ideas that come to us are never realised. We select some and take a step towards realising them and perhaps they will fall on fertile ground.

… with art
Exhibitions and studio visits are a never-ending source of inspiration. I am touched by a funny idea or a pose realised with precision, amazed by certain angles or colour accents. I can think of five examples; the names are linked to a Google image search. Through Keld Moseholm I discovered that gravity can be outwitted, Hans Bach and Stefan Balkenhol use coarse tools to depict details of the human figure with precision, Johannes Hepp’s funny subjects delight, Peter Leisinger impresses with the audacity of his chainsaw and Helga Vockenhuber with precision on a grand scale.

… inside of me
«Dis-Dance» was created in 2009; the man and woman are about 24 cm tall. The work emerged from inside of me, out of the urge to reduce the encounter of a man and a woman to its very essence.

Inner images always play an important part, even if a work is inspired by something I see or experience.

Back to the source
For me, ideas are in focus and blurred at the same time. Ideas expressed in a sculpture demand clarity and contour. I oscillate between my intention, the block of wood and the image that starts to appear, cut by cut. At the end I am left with a sense of wonder: «my» work always contains elements that surprise me.

And this brings me to the place I want to describe with this text: the meeting point of «the self» and «It». Both are important.

Without the self — me, my intentions, my actions — nothing is created. But there is more, something that is difficult to name. When we were kids we didn’t need names for it, it was just there.

There we were, at the source we came from. And we still carry this gift within us, along with the knowledge gained as adults.