Image: Stephan Balkenhol
Installation view. © Stephan Balkenhol
Museum Exhibition

Stephan Balkenhol Le Prévu et L'Imprévu

17—30 October 2020
Palais D'Iéna

I am looking for the contrast between figuration and the abstraction of architecture.

– Stephan Balkenhol 


Known for his wooden sculptures German artist Stephan Balkenhol presents an exhibition in dialogue with the architecture of the hypostyle hall designed by Auguste Perret. 

Fascinated by the city of Le Havre, which was completely rebuilt according to Perret’s plans after the Second World War, Stephan Balkenhol has long been familiar with the work of the architect. 

In the unique setting of the Palais d’Iéna, his sculptures become individuals scattered between the aligned cone-shaped columns. The narrative suggested by this anonymous crowd remains open. “My sculptures don’t tell stories. There is something that has to do with secrecy. It is not for me to reveal it, but for the viewer to discover it by himself” comments the artist, who chooses not to reveal specific narratives. In this human comedy populated by fictional characters, several scenarios seem possible.

Stephan Balkenhol carves his figures with a mallet and a chisel directly from tree trunks, often made of wawa or cedar wood, without trying to erase the traces left by the tools. This unique technique creates a feeling of individuality that is specific to each sculpture, further reinforced by the colours chosen to structure and animate the figures. Placed at human height on raw wooden plinths, these men, women and sometimes hybrid beings, as if out of a fable or an opera, seem both distant and in tune with the viewer. “I try to give them an expression open to others, explains the artist. From there on, all situations are possible.” 

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