Grosser Mann (Large Man) (1988)
About this artwork
This large wooden figure is over ten feet in height and was carved from a single tree trunk. Despite his imposing size, the man looks distinctly non-heroic, his stance suggesting boredom or that he is waiting for something to happen. Balkenhol uses a chainsaw roughly to carve his large figures; he then defines the details with a chisel before painting. Although Balkenhol works in the tradition of Expressionist wood carving, his work can also be associated with the work of the contemporary artist Georg Baselitz. Parallels have also been drawn between Balkenhol's neutral, post-heroic figures and the giant, rhetorical statues beloved by totalitarian regimes.
Balkenhol was born in Fritzlar, West Germany. His work lies in the long tradition of woodcarving in Germany - from the Gothic period to the Expressionist sculpture of artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Ernst Barlach. Balkenhol takes the human figure as his subject, although the abnormally normal, non-heroic types he portrays represent the polar opposite of expressionist angst. The rough surfaces of his sculptures, with chisel and axe marks clearly visible, mean that the viewer cannot forget that the figures are pieces of wood and emphasise that his works are sculptures as much as representations.