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Expo S.M.A.K. 05.02... 10.04.2005

Bernd Lohaus

Practical Information

period: 05.02... 10.04.2005

Citadelpark, B-9000 Gent
T: +32 (0)9 240 76 01
E: info@smak.be

€ 5: individual visitors
€ 3,80: groups larger than 15 and concessions (students, under-25s, over-60s, etc.)
€ 2,50: school groups


Bernd Lohaus

The work of Bernd Lohaus (b. 1940, Dusseldorf) has for many years been founded on a combination of concise and enigmatic words with solid and sober sculptural forms. He has been building up a coherent body of work for several decades. He trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf from 1960 to 1967, where one of his tutors was Joseph Beuys, a figurehead of contemporary European art. Over the years Lohaus has developed into a major and well-established name of international repute.

Over the years, several of his works have been acquired for the SMAK collection, mainly from the period from the late Sixties to the early Eighties. In 1992 Lohaus took part in Documenta IX at the invitation of Jan Hoet. His work was also seen more recently in Ghent in the group exhibitions Over the Edges (2001) and Gelijk het leven is (2003).
This exhibition focuses especially on recent work produced in the last five years. It combines a number of existing works with several which have never been shown in public before. In addition to Lohaus’ characteristic sculptures in solid wood, several smaller sculptures in cire perdue, a collage and a series of drawings and watercolours will also be shown.
The relationship between the artist, the work of art and the viewer is an essential element in Lohaus’ work. He selects with love the wooden beams that will become a support for words. He puts his inner feelings ‘down in writing’ in their compact and silent mass and thereby communicates with the viewer. The chiselled or written (mostly in chalk) words refer to fundamental concepts in the verbal vocabulary. This gives the material – usually weathered wood or rough stone – a contradictory meaning: the enigmatic personal inscriptions give these unwieldy materials a sort of abstract fragility. For the viewer, Lohaus’ native tongue, German, imposes an even greater evocative power on these sculptures.

The combinations of words, in relation to their support – the material – summon up contrasts and resemblances, and thereby expose inner tensions. These verbal messages often refer to human relationships (together/alone, female/male, I/you).
However, Lohaus’ most recent work, which forms the bulk of this exhibition, makes decreasing use of language. But this is not to say that these sculptures have become less accessible to the viewer; on the contrary. These clear-cut constructed sculptures are more ‘silent’, but their highly ordered structure sees to it that they remain sufficiently ‘open’ to be able to coax a variety of words and interpretations from the viewer. By leaving out the language element – and the interpretation that necessarily goes with it – Lohaus now seems to be putting this choice entirely in the viewer’s hands. In this way he emphasises both the solitude of this sort of mental interpretation and the aura of the sculptures themselves. The inherent power of these wordless sculptures is also expressed in the placing of the elements on top of or alongside each other, and the relationships which are thereby created between them.
Lohaus sees the physical and mental labour involved in setting up and arranging these heavy wooden elements as an essential part of his work. It brings about a physical tension between the artist and the material he has chosen. The literal and manual ‘manipulation’ of the parts of the sculpture is after all no longer possible: while putting together the exhibition itself, setting up the works of art becomes a social fact that requires consultation, hesitation and mechanical dexterity. Shifting these extremely heavy beams over and alongside each other to form an open, accessible sculpture that one can even walk on, links the artist’s intuitive artistic and philosophical intentions to the specific limitations of the exhibition space. This means the sculpture increasingly becomes a place in itself.
A quite extraordinary power is also radiated by the recent bronze works in the exhibition. Two large plinths stand on the two sides of the room, forming each other’s apparently irreconcilable opposites: the finished bronzes on the one side and the wax models on the other. The subtle but strong suggestion of the artist’s preparatory ideas (the wax models) and the final result cast in bronze are set immediately opposite each other.
This duality is also to be found in the surprisingly delicate and figurative watercolours, which depict newly opened flowers. To the artist they refer to the process of ‘growing’ and ‘becoming’. These intimate brush drawings are in sharp contrast to Lohaus’ earlier drawing work, whose form came much closer to his sculptures and was as a rule more sketchy and abstract.
By contrast, these drawings seem to represent the origin of the sculptures rather being complementary to them. Or to put it in Lohaus’ own words, ‘Aus Blumen das Holz’.

On the occasion of this exhibition, a catalogue will be published focusing on Bernd Lohaus’ most recent works and including articles by Hans Martens and Raymond Ballau.