Interview By Fred Currant
Q: Stephan, is your sculpture project "multiple-choice" concept art or traditional sculpting?
Stephan: Concept art is just a label and those are rarely helpful in understanding and appreciating the individual work of art. Admittedly catchy labels are nevertheless popular and common. In the end only the work itself counts - that's what people see and judge.
Q: I mean "concept" in the sense that you have a detailed description of how the sculpture shall be constructed and put together.
Stephan: In that case every architect or composer of sheet music would be a concept artist too. I think there are several different aspects to the "concept" - to my sculpture.
Q: Which are?
Stephan: First there is the idea of using the symbol "X", followed by the creation of the "X" itself. Then there is the choice of material, the size, the use of the cutouts, the assembly of the jigsaw and the positioning of the parts including the bases.
Q:Tell me more about your ideas regarding the symbol "X". How did they evolve?
Stephan: "X" is the ultimate mark and probably the primary or primordial mark too. Consider writing in the sand or on a wall or marking a tree. You can punch a hole with a stick or make a dot, draw a circle or a line or mark the place with an "X".
Q: I am reminded of old movies where those who were illiterate would sign with an "X".
Stephan: Like in the films about pirates where the location of the treasure on the map was shown with an "X" and the crew would use their blood and make their "X" on some document to swear their loyalty.
Q: That sounds quite dramatic. Most people today use the "X" quite differently.
Stephan: If you go by quantity you are probably thinking of the "Xs" people put in their messages where it symbolizes hugs.
Q: Almost forgot about that. I was thinking of making choices like when you use an order form.
Stephan: Order form? Maybe. Wasn't there a slogan that said just check the boxes?
Q: Right, there is also the check-mark. Of course we all remember the "X" as being a symbol for the right to vote.
Stephan: Isn't it telling that you make an order with a check-mark but you vote with an "X". The "X" carries or conveys a greater importance.
Q: What about when you fill out a multiple-choice questionnaire which gave your sculpture its name?
Stephan: Today even for the most literate the hardest exams are done via multiple-choice tests. You might get away with checking the boxes but most people make an "X" when they ponder which the right answer would be. "X" is the stronger symbol.
Q: The main sculpture is made of two identical "Xs" that are stacked together at 90 degree angle. This gives it a light but monumental quality.
Stephan: You can walk around the sculpture or view it from any angle from the top and you will always see an "X". That way there is no back, front or side for the large part of the piece. The four smaller semi-circle compositions offer more variety and can be more directional.
Q: In some of your models you have stacked the smaller semi-circles together differently.
Stephan: I was playing with the possibilities. Not every "X" is the same. Some are stable, some almost ambivalent and some rocky.
Q: Isn't the quintessence of a multiple-choice questionnaire standardization and therefore every "X" the same?
Stephan: To the evaluator every answer is digital: "X" or no "X". But for the person having to make the "X", decisions - especially important ones - don't come easy.
Q: Are you trying to add a humane factor back in?
Stephan: Art does that. Isn't that wonderful?
Q: You mentioned your choice of material, size and the meaning of the cutouts.
Stephan: CorTen or "weathering steel" is an honest material with great texture and marvelous properties.
Stephan: It has none of the glamour you find in sculptures made out of precious metals or even copper or brass. Its patina is rust. Hardcore rust that covers the exposed parts and which protects it from further decay and rust.
Q: Robust rust!
Stephan: Yes, with a grainy texture and a warm earthy color and all this in any climate zone and even near salt water which for most materials is an extreme corrosion force.
Q: What determines the size you chose?
Stephan: A good sculpture is a good sculpture in any size. Size really only matters if it has a direct relationship to us. A rock in outer space has a certain numerable size but those are only numbers until it is in front of us and we can relate to it. The size for the sculpture depends a bit on the surroundings but is mainly determined by my wish that one can walk freely under the arch of the cut-out on the bottom and that the cut-out "Xs" are sculptures with their own validity.
Q: The four semi-circle cut-outs are a strong statement. In your models you vary the way they are put together - is it a jigsaw puzzle?
Stephan: I created the jigsaw - if one wants to call it that - so there are two ways you can put two of the semi circles together. Either with each the curves (and straights) aligned in a 90 degree angle or the semi-circle combined with the straight line.
Q: So there are three ways of placing these?
Stephan: Three basic positions. The first has two positions either the straight lines are on the ground or the curved and with the second it doesn't matter which side is up - it looks the same. But let's not forget that these four sculptures are part of the whole setting and I think that's where a lot of feel for the spatial relationship to the area, the bases of the sculptures and the way people can interact with these spaces comes in.
Q: Sounds complex!
Stephan: All relationships are complex and spatial ones just as well. It's also a great opportunity to open or close a space, to give it a feeling of connectedness to the surroundings or to create a more intimate space.
Q: Won't the main sculpture dominate the setting?
Stephan: It will define the center and will have a high visibility from afar. But once you get near to it the four smaller ones will create the space and define the feeling. In the Far East one would probably use feng shui to define it.
Q: Would you use a feng shui master to help in the set up?
Stephan: Wouldn't that be fascinating!
Q: Where do you think your sculpture project will be most appreciated?
Stephan: I don't think there are geographic or cultural limitations. The "X" is universal and "multilingual" if one can say that.For me the most important factor is the setting and the placement. If that is right the sculpture ensemble will speak for itself.
Q: ...and that's the way it should be.