Kubach-Wilmsen

(text accompanying Exhibition No. 39 from 14.3. to 15.6.2002)

Since 1969 Anna and Wolfgang Kubach-Wilmsen have been chiselling out of stone from all four corners of the earth two archetypal forms: the bearer of physical matter, namely the pillar in all its diversity of forms, and the bearer of reading matter, namely the book, the sheet of paper, the monitor, in fact everything in and on which words are written. And they do it in such a way that the stone is at the same time made to reveal its innermost being. Indeed, stone does not serve them merely as a medium but as a material in its own right, a material to which they, the sculptors, open our eyes through the finest of handcrafted finishes. Like a corpse on the dissecting table, the stone opens to reveal its inward truth, its history. It is within this exciting interaction of content and form on the one hand and material and craftsmanship on the other that the art of Anna and Wolfgang Kubach-Wilmsen operates.

In the beginning the pillar was of wood:  the tree trunk supported the sheltering roof. But very soon, wherever and whenever growing knowledge and skills permitted, wood was replaced by stone. The upward taper of the tree trunk was retained and the furrows of the bark were stylized in the form of fluting. This prototype of the classical Greek Doric column became, in 1969, the starting point of the joint oeuvre of Anna and Wolfgang Kubach-Wilmsen and has remained to this day one of their two main formal themes.  In their hands, the fluted column went through countless metamorphoses. Its flutings twisted and turned. It would grow straight out of the ground, without a plinth, as though naturally, organically, and then, after a couple of turns, plunge back into the ground. Or it would become rounded at both ends, transform itself into a chrysalis or, after completing a good four turns, join its two ends together to form an endless continuum. Or it would tie itself into a knot or mutate into an amphora standing upside down.

The stone book, since 1976 the second main formal theme in the oeuvre of Anna and Wolfgang Kubach-Wilmsen, was to prove even more universally viable and versatile. Initially there were books of all sizes and kinds, books in every state and in every form, even in that of the scroll; or the dropped or thrown book, which, like Icarus, must have experienced a very ungentle landing; or books stacked one on top of the other, and, last but not least, the book as a stone ruin.  But these works were just as much about content as about form, namely the word, whether printed or hand-written, for there then followed other bearers of the word: a newspaper, a sheet of writing paper, a tablet, a "Support des Rêves" – a pile of sheets of paper crushed into the shape of a pillow – a letter and, finally, a monitor, which is able, like all the aforementioned media, to convey not only words but images too: "L’image de Pierre".

Stone has never been taken so seriously by any other sculptors. Anna and Wolfgang Kubach-Wilmsen stand at the end of a development that began with a misconception during the Renaissance: according to the artistic precepts of the Renaissance, painting had to be deceptively true to life. By the same token, Renaissance sculpture ought to have been deceptively true to life too. However, all the statues of Antiquity that had survived were almost exclusively white – the unblemished white of marble. This became the sculptor’s ideal and has remained so, with only a few exceptions, right up until the present day.  The fact that the marble statues of Antiquity were originally coloured was not known until much later. While form was as true to life as possible, the surfaces of the statue were monochrome, virtually lifeless stone, completely divorced from the subject matter and its depiction.  This contradiction between art theory and actual sculptural practice, a contradiction that had existed since the Renaissance, was not resolved until 1968, when contemporary art exploded in unprecedented Big Bang fashion into a whole multitude of creative possibilities. The contradiction was resolved in two ways: some artists, like Duane Hanson, created sculptures that were illusionistically real, so real that not only birds – as during the Renaissance – but also many human beings have reportedly been "fooled" by them; other artists, like Anna and Wolfgang Kubach-Wilmsen sought the answer in the stone itself, awakening – for the first time ever – our awareness purely of the surface of the stone and what lies beneath. Its roughness is smoothed and polished to transparency. Whenever we look at one of their books or other bearers of the word, we can read in the stone and understand it in the truest sense of the word, just as we also understand the sense of the pillar, the archetype of which did indeed grow directly out of the ground.

Ingeborg Henze-Ketterer + Wolfgang Henze

Galerie Henze & Ketterer
Kirchstrasse 26, CH 3114 Wichtrach
Tel. +41 (0)31 781 06 01
Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
Wettsteinstrasse 4, CH 4125 Riehen
Tel. +41 (0)61 641 77 77