I’ve recently been haunted by the ghostly sculptures of Bruno Walpoth. Life-size, his powdered beauties, as if in opposition to their ghostly stature, seem heavy and grounded, their gazes locking whomever sees them into a spiritual arrest.
Working with traditional sculptural methods, Walpoth’s work is almost alchemical in quality. Muscles, eyes and fingers that have been carved into wood (lime and walnut) or covered with lead leaf foils, seem soft and supple, sad and pensive. Idealistically beautiful, his figures show signs of bones and sinew under fragile skin.
Marks from carving tools show on the surface of the wooden bodies, and serve as quiet reminders that these creatures are not human. The marks break what anthropomorphizing has taken place and the observer is introduced to (or reminded of) the artist. In a strange way, that break makes these works even more fascinating; they make clearly visible the love that has been passed from the creator to the created.
“Contrary to Geppetto, who constructed himself a child (Pinocchio) out of a piece of wood to banish his loneliness, Bruno Walpoth attempts, perhaps out of awareness of life’s transience, to immortalize the volatile spark of youthfulness
he catches in the eyes of his models – sometimes his own children – into a wooden sculpture,” writes Absolute Art Gallery‘s Diana Gadaldi. Walpoth’s figures are also reminiscent of the children in the paintings of Dino Valls and Gottfried Helnwein, yet are not so tortured nor forced into adulthood. They are more ghostly, or perhaps more Buddhist, as if silently accepting of a new maturity. Ms. Gadaldi also states that “[they] seem to be immersed in a moment of intimate meditation. Their detached attitude and dreamy expression are characteristic for the stage of life they are going through: one of slow but inexorable physical and psychological development. As they evolve from children to adolescents and from adolescents to young adults, the first traces of self-consciousness and emotional involvement appear on their often still infantile faces.”
Born in 1959, Walpoth lives and works in Bolzano, Italy.