Figure Surfaces as Space Signs

The Recent Sculptures from Andreas Theurer
Fritz Jacobi

It is interesting to see the way Andreas Theurer expresses himself in sculpture has changed over the last few years. In spite of a process of change which one could almost define as a break in his artistic development, the main attachment to the human figure has not been abandoned, although the abstraction increasingly makes itself felt in the definition of the figure, the relationship to the human figure has experienced a definite change.
If one should want to compress this process into a few words, one could say: Andreas Theurer has developed from a bodily, entirely voluminous form to a statuesque, more in the surface, bodily tenseness in which a frangible, often wounded and nervous outer skin has replaced the smooth, roundness which covered the figurative centre of the earlier work. Until the late 1980's, up to the move from Braunschweig to Berlin, his work was dominated by the massive, heavy, the figure often filled with an inner drama which Theurer had worked towards, to a certain extent influenced by his teacher in Stuttgart Alfred Hrdlicka and which he concentrated in a cubistic form to bring the enormous internal tension of a body to the outside. The concentrated physical strength of these mostly stocky forms push themselves towards the observer, an almost baroque energy reveals the vital intention of the young artist. Although influences from other sculptors like Giuliano Vangi, Waldemar Grzimek or Jürgen Weber are also present, Theurer's search for his own, block like, almost archaic or also graciously realistic form is always felt.
One gets the impression when one looks at the work of the last few years, that Andreas Theurer has been finding a way to himself and is now in a position to develop and refine the artistic language which is his own. The new sculptures have a freshness and immediacy which goes beyond that of earlier works. The firm, sometimes constricting outer skin has been cast off; his figures reveal themselves now as a scarred, broken and idiosyncratic, rythmic form. The traces of its becoming remain visible and refer at the same time to a fugitiveness which makes them to a unique accentuation of the transitory. There, where earlier the unequivocalness of the figure displaced space, now stand fine-limbed, leaf like, spread-out forms which take up the space or penetrate it, combine with it. The fragile vulnerability through bodily formstructu¬res left frag¬men-ta¬ry now de¬fi¬ne the fi¬gu¬res of An¬dre¬as Theu¬rer.
His sculp¬tu¬res - sands¬to¬ne is now his most fa¬vou¬red ma¬te¬ri¬al - ha¬ve be¬co¬me form signs that still re¬fer to the hu¬man bo¬dy but at the sa¬me ti¬me "con¬ce¬al", break up, seg¬ment or bind it in¬to an ab-strac¬ted form. The bo¬dies so¬me¬ti¬mes gi¬ve the im¬pres¬sion of being dema¬te¬ri¬a¬li¬sed, sha¬dow-li¬ke in their at¬tempt to esca¬pe a sta¬ble lo¬ca¬tion and seem to pass by li¬ke un¬re¬al fi¬gu¬ri¬nes. Their in¬ter-ope¬ra¬bi¬li¬ty grows out of the con¬tour that describes the of¬ten flat, far re¬a¬ching, form zo¬nes and bor¬ders them, li¬ke a rid¬ge. The inner forms them¬sel¬ves de¬ve¬lop li¬ke emp¬ty lands¬ca¬pes, scar¬red with not¬ches, with carefully set eleva¬tions and de¬pres¬sions. Clif¬fli¬ke in¬cru¬stra¬tions are fol¬lo¬wed by hard incisions; taut, al¬most mo¬no¬to¬nous sur¬fa¬ces con¬trast with block bre¬akth¬roughs or thrusts of¬ten accompa¬nied by pain¬ted fra¬me¬works that le¬ad the net of ra¬mi¬fi¬ca¬tion subtly on¬to ot¬her le-vels.
The lar¬ge form of the block, repeatedly le¬ad in¬to the so¬a¬ring co¬lumn and the sen¬si¬ti¬ve¬ly lay¬e¬red struc¬tu¬re of the "ou¬ter skin" com¬ple¬te each ot¬her to a quiet, al¬most pe¬a¬ce¬ful vision that at the sa-me ti¬me trans¬mits a uni¬que¬ly mo¬ving, vi¬bra¬ting ema¬na¬tion. The¬se sculp¬tu¬res pos¬sess their own, meditative, mo¬ment. The for¬ces are col¬lec¬ted, com¬bi¬ned, di¬rec¬ted, on the ot¬her hand no de¬fi¬ni¬te re¬fe¬ren¬ce po¬int is al¬lo¬wed whi¬le the completeness of the form is re¬pe¬a¬ted¬ly ac¬cen¬tu¬a¬ted. Sel¬dom is the midd¬le, the cen¬tre, em¬pha¬si¬sed: more usu¬al¬ly the sculp¬tu¬ral stre¬ams spre¬ad them¬sel¬ves in fields and growths over the re¬lief of the ex¬pan¬si¬ve sur¬fa¬ce.
It fol¬lows then that for An¬dre¬as Theu¬rer, the play of forms has an es¬sen¬ti¬al me¬a¬ning. This re¬la-tions¬hip can be seen most cle¬ar¬ly in the two fi¬gu¬re groups li¬ke "Di¬a¬lo¬gue", a sen¬si¬ti¬ve¬ly sha¬ped pai¬ring of two al¬most lifesized fi¬gu¬res, which by the op¬po¬si¬tion of the two stan¬ding fi¬gu¬res, at the sa¬me ti¬me sug¬gest that they are stan¬ding si¬de by si¬de and leads to a com¬pa¬ri¬son and to a wan-de¬ring of the eye bet¬ween the fi¬gu¬res. The sin¬gle figures car¬ry too, the po¬ten¬ti¬al of this wan¬de¬ring look. The cont¬ra¬dic¬to¬ry em¬pha¬sis are most¬ly pla¬ced in the si¬des and bu¬ild the¬re the ten¬sion fra-me¬work which dri¬ves the changing "look". In works such as "Dan¬ce", "The Ma¬gic Cu¬be", the "Small Il¬lu¬sion" or "Ta¬ble Com¬pa¬nion" this is cle¬ar to see, but al¬so sculp¬tu¬res li¬ke the me¬ti¬cu¬lous¬ly prepared "Ba¬lan¬ce" - he¬re, on¬ce again, the tit¬le sug¬gests the im¬por¬tan¬ce of such a valen¬ce - and most of the ot¬her, ne¬wer works are al¬so bound up in such a po¬la¬ri¬sa¬tion.
An¬dre¬as Theu¬rer has found a way to his own sen¬si¬ti¬ve form in the har¬scher cli¬ma¬te of Ber¬lin and un¬doub¬ted¬ly al¬so through the in¬fluen¬ce of his sculp¬tor col¬le¬a¬gue Aza¬de Köker, in which the dy¬na-mic of an ar¬chaic res¬traint com¬bi¬nes with a sa¬tis¬fy¬ing cla¬ri¬ty. One sen¬ses he¬re the au¬then¬ti¬cal¬ly felt ab¬ra¬sion of the me¬a¬ning and being of exi¬sten¬ce, mee¬tings with, ab¬o¬ve all, the hu¬man exi-stan¬ce and in its re¬la¬tions¬hip with its environment and di¬men¬sions. It is a very in¬ten¬si¬ve se¬arch which is to be found in the work. The ex¬plo¬ra¬tion of the cor¬po¬ral that to a cer¬tain ex¬tent has been re¬mo¬ved from its own midd¬le, pla¬ced in an in¬e¬xo¬ra¬ble play of for¬ces and re¬qui¬red to as¬sert it¬self in an all-per¬va¬si¬ve rhythm of ti¬me has be¬co¬me the key in¬tu¬i¬ti¬ve in¬stru¬ment of An¬dre¬as Theu¬rer. He is on his way, the work of the last few ye¬ars are of la¬sting, mo¬ving ef¬fi¬ca¬ci¬ty. Persistan¬ce and mo¬vement com¬bi¬ne them¬sel¬ves in a con¬fi¬gu¬ra¬tion in which awa¬ke¬ning and fi¬na¬le are equal¬ly pre¬sent.

Dr. Fritz Jacobi (PhD), The National Museums in Berlin, Old National Gallery