Bruno Walpoth


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Essay by Lisa Trockner 
Even as early as his years at the Academy, sculptor Bruno Walpoth sensed an inner desire for the figure, though he only gave in to this urge around 15 years ago when he committed himself to it entirely. The stringency, this adamant persistence – characterized by a repeated inner conflict over the course of the years – and coupled with its internalized form of expression, is of seminal importance for what the artist is currently creating in his studio. This is an independent form of art, developed and carried forward from tradition, one whose statements are firmly on the pulse of the times and contribute to expanding the borders of the figurative. This applies not only to Bruno Walpoth alone, but to some of his Grödner colleagues and artist friends as well. Artists whose successes achieved through their abilities, prowess, passion and perseverance speak for themselves today.

Bruno Walpoth‘s human figures created from limewood or walnut come about as a result of his meeting and dealing with models. On a scale of one-to-one, the bodies, lines and forms of the few young, gaunt men and the myriad of beautiful women take shape from the block of wood by means of his hands. Although Walpoth is attracted to producing concrete likenesses of body parts, such as a shoulder or ankle, and he is pleased with the successful outcome, his concern is not only for a hyper-realistic portrait of the person who stands before him: In his or her outward appearance, the model serves as a cover surface for implied projections. Granted, the facial features and body forms correspond to those of the models, but Bruno Walpoth reduces the strong individual characteristics of the personality in his sculptural representation – those that would constitute the individuality in the classical sense of the portrait.

Each new work is an additional challenge for building up excitement and suspense. The artist accomplishes this with a mixture of presence and absence, proximity and distance. The physical presence of his figures allows for proximity and yet it is scarcely possible to enter into direct contact with them. It is as if they were to shy away from any immediate confrontation, be evasive and not permit any interaction. If we attempt to describe their state of mind, despite their open gaze, it remains difficult to classify this as a look of concentration or indifference. The question arises whether his figures look optimistically to the future or if they are caught in their own melancholic blues. They are not in action, and remain unmoved by their surroundings. There are no eyes wandering in search for contact, no eye-catching, but instead, as befits their existence, they are restrained and inwardly focused. If the viewer is prepared to deal with this and to give something of himself, an encounter becomes possible. If we opt to engage, it is hardly possible to avert their gaze, and we are invariably captivated. At this moment, the vis-a-vis becomes a memory disc, a filter, a reflector of what we allow ourselves to see. An impression arises of intimate isolation, which is further enhanced by its unique beauty. The sublime aesthetics of form and expression, less reminiscent of the customary ideal of beauty than of that of the Early Renaissance, is characterized by humble and innocent charm, suggesting a further distance. Meeting up with ourselves is a rarity in our day. This is at once a great gift and a great challenge, since such an encounter with one‘s self is not only the most complicated but also the most inevitable of all our relationships.

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Bruno Walpoth studio


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