7th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition Biel
The "Skulpturenplatz" (Sculpture Promenade) in Biel-Bienne — homage to Hans Aeschbacher
The special exhibition of nine steles by Hans Aeschbacher launches a new institution for Biel. Every year, the beautiful and generously appointed location by the mouth of the Suze river is to see the exhibition of an invited sculptor. The artist will be given the opportunity of presenting a sizable group of works in a much-frequented public space.
In years when the Sculpture Exhibition with its large selection of very recent works takes place, the "Skulpturenplatz" (Sculpture Promenade) may, as this year, hold a small retrospective. In the intermediate years, however, artists should be allowed to show their most recent works. Exposure to the public will give the artist valuable feedback on his work. However, the most stimulating and inspiring aspect will most likely be the arrangement of his works in a new environment.
Connoisseurs and passers-by alike will have the opportunity to engage with these sculptures over the course of a year, seeing them in various conditions of lighting and climate, and in various seasons and personal moods. The fact that the viewer will encounter a group of sculptures over an extended period of time will enable him to think more deeply about the themes and issues addressed by the artist and his works, and perhaps also to overcome some prejudices. Conversely, the annual rotation of exhibitions should prevent the public from becoming jaded and risk overlooking the works of art.
It has become a tradition for Biel to hold a Swiss Sculpture Exhibition every five years. Is it not, therefore, logical to establish an institution that will grant sculpture and sculptors an increased and continuous presence in this city? We are certain that the newly-created institution will contribute towards revitalising the promenade. Culture for pleasure, for the experience, for study or consumption, as a talking point or, quite simply, as a presence – that is what is to be found on the banks of the Suze.
We were able to discuss the exhibition and the selection of his works with Hans Aeschbacher before he died, recently, at the age of 74. And so, the last exhibition he planned has been transformed into a memorial show. Hans Aeschbacher was one of the most significant Swiss sculptors, a teacher and mentor of countless young colleagues, and for decades an important driving force whose influence can be seen everywhere. We asked him to inaugurate the "Skulpturenplatz" with his works. He restricted his selection to steles and stele-like figures hewn in stone. The group of works presented in Biel shows a consistent development in Aeschbacher's work, from the realistic fullness and voluptuous beauty of the female form to the abstraction as a flowing contour line and on to stele-like, disembodied, uprising sheaves of harsh and hard-edged stone.
There is no doubt that the unique quality of Hans Aeschbacher's oeuvre is due to his intimate relationship to stone. He always endeavoured to exploit the material's full potential. Its weight fascinated him as much as transcending the heaviness. And there are few better examples in contemporary sculpture of the artist's ability to render the sensuality of stone surfaces than Aeschbacher's "Venus Asylstrasse 23". In his lava figures the quality of the material becomes a formal principle: "re-creation" becomes pure three-dimensional creation. The stone surrenders its hidden life. In his later steles presented here the ribs, the "light-edged strings", are given a voice. Aeschbacher attempts to take the weight out of the oppressive stone.
Hans Aeschbacher participated in each and every one of the past Swiss Sculpture Exhibitions. This is why we are especially pleased that his presence also graces the current show. Finally, we owe a debt of gratitude to the owners for lending us their treasures for this exhibition.
Translation from german © Margret Powell-Joss