Getting onto Man - in Dialogue with Stone
The Stone, the Artist, the Sculpture, the Viewer

Is it possible at all to talk about sculptures?

Is it the task of the artist, especially the sculptor, to work on the sphere that lays beyond language? Knut Hüneke says he‘d rather let the stone speak for itself - and with the viewer.

Let‘s try anyway. To talk about sculptures.

Let‘s first talk about the material, its geological origin, its history, and by that about its expressiveness. Which, in "volcanic smelt", is different from that in the "loose structure" of sedimentary rock, which has less of an inner cohesion. These different "valences" of rock have different appeals to Hüneke. He can‘t take soft stone serious; the material has to show some resistance; the stone has to sound - to be able to get into a dialogue with it.

We talk about the stone‘s color and structure which are "of fundamental expressiveness". An expressiveness that is already there, before the sculptor does his first stroke. Hüneke is looking for and recognizing it when he walks through the quarries, choosing chunks of rock.

He wouldn‘t order stones from the sawmill; that he considers to be "boring; like a white canvas". Hüneke needs a vis-á-vis, a counterpart, which already has a structure, and substance, and weight, and shape.

Sometimes the shape is already so distinct that he has "to help" only a little. And sometimes he has to work a lot to make it to a shape. Always in dialogue with the stone. "The stone has a very big say" in this process. On the on hand. On the other Hüneke wants to achieve the "manifestation of [his] human will - the will to create". He wants the stone to become a sculpture. That has to be balanced out; that has to be mutual: "It‘s my aim to leave to the stone enough to remain a stone, and to give the statue so much that it is able to appear."

And thus appear "stone beings", as a writer once called them at the opening of an exhibition in Aswan, Egypt. No human beings, no images of man, no complete transformations - they still are obvious stones: arranged in human proportions; already recognizable as human figures in early stages of work.

In dialogue with the stone ("I let the stone lead me."): taking away something so something new can emerge - and yet leaving the original visible.

Hüneke describes how he draws on the stone, and the follows those lines with the iron: "What was a charcoal line has become real, has become an edge. I find it exciting to bring a three dimensional sketch onto the stone."

To make a graphic, an artwork onto the stone, into the stone: that‘s what he had looked for - unknowingly. Suddenly he had realized that this, too, is a way to proceed - and he is very glad to have seen it. This means: the stone has helped him in his development.

Hüneke brings out the graphic in the stone and thus helps the stone to get this feature.

To what extent is the artist visible in the sculpture? He couldn‘t answer that. An outside observer should try that, who knows both him and the sculpture. "Of course the sculpture is me‘." But apart from this he couldn‘t say anything about his sculptures; he has tried it; he can‘t.

That‘s a matter of intuition, of eyes and heart - and that‘s the approach the viewer should take, too.

"Language fails, if you try to describe this." Talking can only come so close to the essential.

And this is true, too, for the question "Why figures?" Hüneke agrees the question to be "essential - but it couldn‘t be answered in words." He has tried to write why he does figures, why he works figuratively - and he has reached his limits. "This pretty soon gets you to the foundations of our existence." He can say only so much that there is "nothing programmatic" about his figurative work. He hasn‘t decided, based on thoughts, to make figures. No matter how he approaches the stone, planned or spontaneously - it just becomes a figure. A human figure. It‘s about man; about the attempt to approach and understand man.

Perhaps the viewer, too, will approach himself - in dialogue with the figure.

"If you want to see, you will." But that can take a while as these are "sculptures of soft tones". There are aspects in the figures "that you only realize when you looked at it for the third time", when you are prepared "to put yourself into them".

Then it can happen that the sculpture gives you something positive, power; that it will be a stabilizing element - because of the tension inside it.

Christoph Hanckel: After an interview with Knut Hüneke on 01.June 1999