For a constructive abstract sculptor like Johannes Bierling, taking his work on the road is no small task. Johannes’ primary medium is wood, and his sculptures and installations make for large-scale exhibitions. When he and his wife Catherine decided to spend a month with Sustainable Bolivia as artists in residence, he planned to work on more portable forms and stages of his art, such as sketches and paper models.
To really grasp the magnitude and presence of Johannes’ full-size sculptures, you would have to visit the galleries such as MaGu in Hallefors, Sweden where they have been on display. But for the crowd at Sustainable Bolivia who was interested in learning more about Johannes and his art, he organized the next best thing. At the casa principal, he gave a presentation to share photos of his past exhibitions and video footage of his creative process.
In one of Bierling’s most prestigious exhibitions at Morat Institut, in Freiburg, Germany, he displayed three graphic columns of poplar wood. In this installation, each of the columns complements each other, one using the positive space of the others’ negative space. This piece is a good representation of Bierling’s style, which tends toward simple forms, circles, angles, forms, and linkage.
“I like to think that my art will have the same effect as good architecture. It is intended to fascinate the eye and force it to reconsider space,” he explains.
After photo slides of some of his most significant works, Johannes played a video he had made about a special piece he did called K4. This sculpture came about when a family’s tree died after a long life. The family wanted to commemorate the tree and preserve it, so Johannes sculpted into a four-sided pillar. Each side represents a member of the family, and the sides reach into each other, intertwining.
In another film that Johannes shared, entitled “Sculpture Space,” he takes the viewer through his own creative process. Often, he constructs a paper model of the sculpture first. Sometimes he finds a piece of wood that will give him his next idea, and sometimes his next idea sets him in search of the right medium.
When turning a trunk into a work of art, the decision-making process is complex, even drastic. “In a work in progress, sometimes you must change direction,” commented Johannes. “You must make a radical cut.”
The presentation ended with a lively question and answer session, where volunteers learned more about Johannes’ life and beginnings as an artist in his small hometown of Oberammergau, Germany. When asked for advice to young aspiring artists, Johannes laughs. “An artist’s life, it goes up and down.” he observes. “New artists need to find their own media, and then focus and specialize.”
As part of his residency, Johannes exhibited some of his sketches on paper here in Cochabamba. The public was welcome to view his works at La Troje. The display was open for three days, beginning Wednesday August 30. See more of Johannes’ work on his website: http://www.bierling-art.de/