Balkenhol Sculpture of Richard Wagner Nearing Completion (images)

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 15 April 2013 | 9:46:00 pm

Stephan Balkenhol working on his sculpture of Richard Wagner, for a memorial for the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner to be erected in Leipzig

Kassel/Leipzig. On May 22, 2013, the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner, a memorial
for the composer will be erected in Leipzig. A prestigious jury selected the design by
sculptor, Stephan Balkenhol from among the artist contest entrants. There was a
special challenge involved in this commission in that the current artist would have to
integrate an existing design, from a different artist from over one-­hundred years ago.
At the same time the complete design would have to project its validity into the future.
At the moment Balkenhol is working on the completion of his design in his Kassel
studio. Richard Wagner is portrayed as a life-­size young man standing in front of his
own exaggeratedly large shadow.

At the beginning of the 20th century an attempt to create a Wagner monument was already
begun. With the whirlwind of WWI and the 1920 death of Max Klinger, the only one intimate
enough with his work, it remained incomplete. The only thing that was actually implemented
was its white marble pedestal, which is now the basis for the new sculpture: In front of a four
meter tall silhouette of the elder Wagner, Balkenhol presents a life-­‐size Wagner as a young
man from his time in Leipzig.

"I'm showing a Richard Wagner yet to be spoiled by fame and recognition: adventurous,
human and approachable," says Balkenhol about his design. Wagner's human size is not only
juxtaposed by the old master, the übermensch genius, in front of whom he seems to stiffen,
but also in contrast to the oversized shadow: "When the composer is taken out of the flat
idealization and becomes more plastic, the viewer can then find a new way of looking at him,"
says Balkenhol.

The sculptor at first distances himself from Klinger's design, which Wagner then elevates and
monumentalizes – the tall shadow paraphrases Klinger's design, because the shadow's
outline is adapted from the shape and size of Klinger's Wagner. The oversized shadow can
not be separated from he who casts it, just as the person and work of Wagner can not be
separated. Shadow and work are distinct from the person, but at the same time they have far-­‐
reaching and super-­‐temporal dimensions. Wagner's compositions as well as his vision of a
Gesamtkunstwerk have grown beyond the person himself. They grow out of the individual
human scale to gain independence in both positive and negative ways. What's certain: This
shadow needs the man Wagner. He is origin and instigator.

The reception of Wagner changes with time, and this time factor has been thematically
melded with his work. Balkenhol says, "The relationship between person/artist,

transience/timelessness is continuously hashed out anew. My design elucidates the historical
nature of Wagner's reputation and at the same time designs a picture of the being of
visionary artistic production: The artist, the genius foreshadows himself."

Balkenhol's exciting scene mirrors the polarity of the Wagner image and at the same time it
leaves many questions open. Just like in his previous work, Balkenhol requests the viewer to
bring himself into the piece: "Only when some things have been left unsaid can the recipient
put his own effort into it. Only by really getting to know the work can the viewer experience
its varied and distinct sensual layers," says the sculptor.

Balkenhol, born in 1957 in Fritzlar, Hessia, Germany has been Professor of Visual Arts at the
State Academy of Visual Arts in Karlsruhe. He lives and works in Kassel, Karlsruhe, in French
Meisenthal and in Berlin and among other things, he is known for his roughly hewn and
colorfully painted wooden sculptures. Even though Balkenhol mostly prefers to work with
wood, due to weathering, both the figure of Wagner and the silhouette will be cast in bronze.

The unconventional design sets itself apart from all of the previous Wagner monuments. This
is how the people are to be made aware of Richard Wagner in his role as son of Leipzig. In
contrast to Wagner cities like Bayreuth, Munich or Dresden, in Leipzig an independent
Wagner picture is in the making.

This project has been graciously made possible by Wagner Denkmal e.V., an initiative of
volunteers, who have the goal of supporting the continued development of Leipzig as a music
and culture city. The realization of this project, without state subsidies, is secured strictly
through donations.