Balkenhol, an internationally renowned German artist who has been concentrating on the human figure for over two decades, began his sculptural process of figurative wood carving in the mid-eighties – as a response to the abstract, minimalist and conceptual approaches of the Hamburg School of Fine Arts where he studied from 1976 to 1982 under Ulrich Rückriem. His first figurative wooden sculptures from 1983 of a larger-than-life naked man and woman placed the human figure at the centre of his work and reintroduced the figure to contemporary sculpture. In the 1990s he added animals and hybrids, and more recently architecture to his artistic vocabulary. His practice also comprises drawings and photographs.
The artist uses a hammer and chisel to gouge his figures out of the tree trunk, leaving the shavings and traces of the tools visible in the wood with its knots, grain and cracks. He then uses paint to structure the sculpture and accentuate the anatomy, in no way heightening the figure’s expressiveness. Balkenhol has been representing contemporary figures, either as free-standing sculptures or reliefs in wood, of the everyday man or woman in order to strip them of any narrative content and onto which the viewer is able to project his own image.