When I sculpt a HEAD, it is essential that I have the person in front of me. Restraint is key. It is not I, but the person before me, who is important and brilliant, and to whom thoughtfulness must be paid.
Another person. A new work. An old Art. Our time – It is no more.
And yet there is an endless amount to say about this old, fascinating and complex art. Titian was a key influence for me. At the end of the 1980s, I went with a venetian friend and my wife Eva to see a comprehensive Titian exhibition in the Palazzo Ducal. We were thrilled by the vitality of his portraits.
I was especially transfixed by his Portrait of a Young Man (The Young Englishman) in the Palazzo Pitti. I felt myself challenged, almost provoked: so impudently did the sovereignty of the represented unite with the sovereignty of the representation. I found it so brazen. I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I resolved to remain until I could decipher Titian’s enigma. For hours, I paced back and forth between the images, comparing portrait with portrait. “Just how does he do it?” Until I understood how Titian calculated and created consistency in orientation and perception in his rendering of faces.
I had discovered an exquisite, subversive method of composition, unearthed an indelible and indescribable quality. I redoubled my efforts. In Titian’s teacher Giorgione I found this technique already applied, but still not completely developed. In Tintoretto, Titian’s later competitor, this technique is already gone. Later, I drew a lot from Michelangelo. There I saw this method not only transferred to the entire body, but also implemented spatially.
Houdon, Carpeaux, Bernini, the greatest realist portraitists, built off of this, although they could almost never reach Titian’s level of refinement. A large number of painters and sculptors did not have this knowledge, or they did not use it. In Tilmann Riemenschneider also, one finds exceptional depth and sharp nuance.
Two artists especially fascinate me, who couldn’t be greater, nor more different. Hans Holbein the Younger is unmatched in his capacity to reduce his medium to the highest precision and thereby to create an incredible intensity; while Rembrandt overwhelms the viewer with his intuitive technique and exuberant imaginativeness in the search for humanity itself. Holbein is still comprehensible – but there are still things to learn from Rembrandt which lie far beyond finesse and technique.