Speech of Roland Phleps at the Opening of the Exhibition
The Lightness of Steel
on 9. Nov 2003 in the Sculpture Hall ("Skulpturenhalle")
Stiftung für Konkrete Kunst Roland Phleps
(Foundation for Concrete Art Roland Phleps)
Dear Friends of the Foundation, Ladies and Gentlemen!
When opening an exhibition in this hall I usually introduce you to the artist and his work.
Today will be different, because this exhibition is a selection of my own sculptures. I am taking the opportunity to look back on twelve years of work in sculpture which have been marked by a joy in artistic creation. This joy emerges from a freedom to play with the material, a process which is both serious and goal oriented.
Works of art have been a joy to me throughout my life, especially architecture and sculpture, but I did not intend to create such art myself. Then I found myself experimenting with geometric forms in paper, just "per il mio diletto". It was twelve years ago when I first choose sheets of steel as the material for my modules with which to create my sculptures. It was a fortunate choice, opening many ways toward my creative intention. It meant using the technic of laser-cutting and modern methods of welding, executed by able and helpful specialists.
The first time I learned of "Concrete Art" was when a friend of mine, a painter, saw my first sculptures in our garden and exclaimed: "Look, that's "Concrete Art"!" When he asked me if I knew the famous Max Bill, I replied naively though self-confidently as well, "Who is Max Bill? I am ignorant (Ich bin ungeBILLdet.)."
Today, I could add "Ich bin unverbildet - I am not indoctrinated." and thereby emphasize my critical distance toward dogmatic principals and rigid formalism, characteristics showing in some works of "Concrete Art" causing them to bore me. Therefore I also deny the ideological ballast in the beginnings of this style.
I agree with the ideas of Concrete Art, because it frees us from the obligation to imitate the already existing natural world. This opens the way to our own creativity. I also accept Concrete Art because of its use of principal geometric, that is, pure mental elements as the base of its constructed works.
On the other hand, the mathematical and constructive perfection did not seem sufficient to me to acknowledge a sculpture as a work of art. I consider aesthetic qualities to be crucial, such as being lively, musical or poetic. These can be judged but not measured. Therefore I take refuge with Goethe: "Wenn Ihr's nicht spürt, Ihr werdet's nicht erjagen!" (If you don't feel it, you will not get it!)
The experience of these twelve years has been a learning one and one of development. This is not meant to refer to the quality of my works (for in each period there have been better and less successful attempts), but it refers to the artistic aim. One of these aims is to overcome the heaviness of the material. For this reason I have called the selection of sculptures in this exhibition "The Lightness of Steel".
Lightness, of course, does not mean the measurable weight but rather the character of configuration and verve of the sculptures shown here. In the main they are open sculptures, standing in space and using space. They have volume but not body with its own weight. In effect, they seem to be made of light. The impression of lightness increases when the sculpture rises from a small basepoint, sometimes in a dance-like movement.
Perhaps this selection of sculptures shows best what I mentioned in the beginning: my joy in playing. It is a playing with rational background but with great creational freedom, and it has grown into a passion which has not yet come to its end. If this is not only a verbal statement but becomes visible and can be felt, I have achieved what exceeds the artist and his work: the echo.
Enough of words now. Let's go to the works!