The porphyry quarries of Dossenheim have never produced working-stones in the true sense of the word. The rock here at the steep drop of the Odenwald down to the Rhine valley is too jagged and too irregular in its structure. Only in the Leferenz quarry paving stones and kerbs were being produced to a limited extent.
Although I grew up beneath these yellow porphyry cliffs, and the shut down parts of the
quarries having been kind of an adventure-playground for me as a child, several years would
pass after my apprenticeship as a stone mason and sculptor before I began to use this brittle
and unruly material.
It was excellent for making steps and path-slabs. A client of mine was so impressed by its beauty and versatility that one day he asked me whether one couldn't also produce sculptures from this material. At first I answered in the negative. The matter didn't let me rest, though, until I dared to tackle one of the big rocks, so called "Knäppers"; I began to drill and split it to use the remaining material for sculptural works. My disappointments were big as again and again crevices and gaps crisscrossed the rock. The expense of time and tools to get to a usable piece of material was excessive.
Finally they were revealed, those "Stone-Beings", man-like figures that should become characteristic for my future work. Through its difficult technical properties the porphyry forced me to clear and simple shapes.
From the employees of the Vatter and Leferenz companies I learned how to move such voluminous hunks in the first place. Through their help I began to become familiar with the material. But it wasn't the physical assistance alone that helped me to understand the material. Above all it were the stories and anecdotes, but also the dramas that took place in the Dossenheim quarries that over the time led to a strange attachment to these mountains and to the people who had worked and suffered, and in extreme cases had died here. Although I grew up in Dossenheim I'll always remain stranger, a "Noigschnoischta" as the locals call them, and that's why in the beginning I was met with suspicion by the people in the quarries. Over the years the common work, the common language of the stone made us grow together.
Today I use stones from all over the world; I even have to travel to southern Africa to find
Nevertheless I know that I wouldn't be able to work with the greatest of ease with any material as I do it today if I hadn't had the experiences in the Dossenheim porphyry quarries. Working with Dossenheim porphyry was of decisive importance for my artistic development. The stone-space in front of the Schauenburg hall marks the end of this development as it will not be possible in the future to get work-stones this size from Dossenheim porphyry. Already decades ago the Leferenz company discontinued the exploitation of rock. The remaining stock of possibly useful material for sculpting is exhausted. The Vatter company, the last remaining to win porphyry, had to bring its activities to an end. Thus the Dossenheim porphyry is a deposit not exploited anymore - it will become 'historic rock'.
On a limited scale, however, I can still use the remaining stock for my artistic work.
Knut Hüneke, 05.04.06 (revised version)
"As much stone as possible, as much figure as necessary."
It is the material that determines the way towards a sculpture. Its characteristics like the
texture of its surface, shape and size, its massiveness and weight are determining the expressiveness
of a sculpture.
The process of creation begins with the removing the stones from the rock formation. Choosing the suitable brute and its alignment is the beginning of a sculpture. I prefer formats that contain human proportions. Through its dimensions and its geometry the stone prescribes the idea.
Now follows the clarification of the masses on the sketching pad; so, ahead of the craft process, this makes the stone transparent, and tries to use the volume of the stone within a maximum of its dimensions.
I sketch directly on the stone, doing without the customary clay model. All the material above the sketched line has to be removed. Diamond discs eat into the material, which is then being removed by iron-headed hammer and chisel. The material turns white where it is being hit by the chisel; the same is true at the cuts of the diamond disc.
Both the sketches with the chisel as well as the cuts are being used like a sketched line to mark off shape and surface. Thus, slowly, develops a three dimensional drawing, a stone- drawing.
Where it turns out, the surfaces coloured by minerals and ores are being left and included into the shaping.
The original shape always remains recognizable. My aim is to leave to the stone as much as it needs to remain a stone, and to give the figure as much as it needs to appear.
Knut Hueneke, 24.05.04
Every visitor who has travelled west about 60 kilometres into the Libyan Desert is deeply moved or even frightened by the sight of the cones of black basalt debris that pile up in front of him. Having just set out from the hectic Nile valley, bursting with life, he now finds himself in one of the most lonely and desolate regions on Earth. The dryness is so extreme that even the smallest blade of grass wouldn't survive, the silence is so strange that one's own heartbeat becomes a roar.
"Deshret", the Red Land, is the old Egyptian name for this desert; in contrast to of "Kemet",
the black, fertile land of the Nile valley where "Maat", order is ruling, while the desert symbolizes chaos.
At the Western edge of the desert the dead were buried. The desert itself was the realm of the dead, guarded by Seth, a mythical creature with the looks of a jackal and with diabolic qualities. Still today the Egyptian only very reluctantly dares to venture out into the desert He is afraid of the Bedouins who consider the desert as their home, but even more so he is afraid of the " Dschinns" and " Afrits" ,the evil spirits that wander around here.
During the great time of the pyramids of the Old Empire, more than 4000 years ago, the Pharaonic master builders set up a transport ramp from Lake Qarun to Gebel Qatrani to take away the basalt found here. The floors of the funerary temples had to made be from this material only, no expenditure was spared. One may speculated on the reasons. Hardly anybody can evade the magic of this place.
From 1994 on I travelled to Gebel Qatrani regularly. At first in a convoy, later alone which was quite a venture, considering the decrepit state of the cross-country vehicle I was driving then. But I was determined to use the black basalt of Gebel Qatrani for my sculptural work. From 1996 on I began to work the rock myself, using the basalt's cool-down cervices. Without special technical tools, just with a crowbar, a sledgehammer, wedges, and a few digging instruments I could get blocks of stone to work with. The basic forms that nature supplied were ideal for my idea of sculpture. I could work in that scorching heat for just a few hours at a time, and I had to break off early in order to reach the oasis road before it was getting dark. I often thought of the workers of Pharaonic times who couldn't escape this isolated and uncanny place. Still today one can see the remains of their so called 'crawl-huts' in the desert sand. One can hardly assume that they volunteered for this work in the steep and shade less slopes.
Once I took a photographer along to document the breaking and recovering of a stone. During this action I got totally wrapped up in a small whirlwind which made it impossible to continue my work. The photographer stood just a few meters away in broad daylight and didn't get the slightest draught. So much for the ghosts of Gebel Qatrani.
With time they became my friends.
Knut Hueneke, Heidelberg, 3.10.2001