Culturalee met Swiss artist Christian Bolt at the press view of his solo exhibition ‘On Human Beauty’ at Impulse Gallery in Lucerne.
Impulse Gallery are showcasing Bolt’s largest body of work to date, with an exhibition exploring the perception of the human image and its inherent contradictions. Bolt is regarded as one of Switzerland’s most intriguing contemporary sculptors and he incorporates abstract and classical influences into his sculptural creations. ‘On Human Beauty’ takes over the Impulse Gallery expansive 450 sqm space with over 14 sculptures, as well as paintings and drawings, many of which were commissioned exclusively for this exhibition.
In Bolt’s artistic realm, the human body transcends mere representation; it becomes a canvas for exploring mental attitudes and the depths of human aspirations, utilizing the very image of one’s own presence.
Also featured in the exhibition are Bolt’s signature marble “paintings” which he creates by mixing the discarded marble dust from his studio into a kind of paste that he uses to create textured compositions on 2-dimensional surfaces. Despite their quiet and restrained appearance, these works harbor an underlying moral complexity that engages with questions of history and its representation.
Culturalee: What’s the starting point of the exhibition’s title ‘On Human Beauty’?
Christian Bolt: Paul Cezanne quoted once: “Each time I’m visiting an exhibition of Eugene Delacroix, Iunderstand something beter about myself.” And I found that this quote helps us understand what beauty really can mean if we really understand something about ourselves. Then there is another quote of Austrian poet Karl Kraus who said “We are not embracing the beauty,but what will become beauty through it.” And so this refers already to the process of development. And this leads us to this exhibition. So I’m interested in the factors of what make or what brings forth beauty.
Culturalee: All the sculptures look slightly tormented. There’s this kind of mystery because the body is very idealized and sculpted, but you’ve created a sense of mystery because they are masking their faces. I wondered if the title is ‘On Human Beauty’ but is it also about human angst and inner turmoil?
Christian Bolt: Generally, I would say it’s a dialogue between figuration and abstraction. You see a very Strong connection to the classic, antique and Renaissance. I’m interested in the factors of what brings forth beauty. Generally, it’s a dialogue between figuration and abstraction.
You see a very strong reference to the antique, to the classic, to Greek, to the Renaissance. So I believe that the Greek, Egyptian, Etruscan…all these ancient cultures – thought of something very important that abstraction and figuration needs to be balanced, and needs to come together. What we have done in our culture today, we have tried to separate it too strongly. And so, there is always a type of abstraction and idealization in the figuration.
Culturalee: Can you explain the process behind the marble dust paintings?
Christian Bolt: When I’m working on marble statues there is dust in the air. I have big machines taking away the dust out of the air. I’ve learned that this dust is of high quality and we should not just throw it away. So, I made some research into how we could combine this dust into a modeling paste. Because I wanted to have a chance to touch marble in a different way. Because this is sculpting, meaning taking away, ‘sculpire’. This is the opposite of building up. With the modeling paste you build up the form, you’re not taking away. So 10 years ago we discovered this modeling paste.
To me designing is basically a sign. Design is a human sign. So I’m starting with these human signs, And a sign or a design creates a language. It’s the beginning of creating a language. That’s the reason I allow myself to write directly into the work. We have agreed in society that this sign is an ‘a’ or this Sign is a ‘b’ so that we can understand each other. Here the sign or intellect of the spirit touches the material. This is like the birth of the form.
Culturalee: The wooden sculptures have a much more primitive style compared to the classical style of the marble sculptures, and the wooden sculptures have a very distinctive aroma.
Christian Bolt: I’m focusing on one topic and I work it through with different materials. My work generally and also my understanding of sculpture is touching. It’s all about touching. So what happens if I touch clay, or If I touch wood, or if I touch marble. In this way of thinking, I’m referring to a triangle. In this way we Start with content. And every content has its own form: content, form and material, this is a triangle in Sculpture. Because my way of touching is different with the different materials, I can approach different aspects of the content and come closer to the ‘condizione humana’.
My story is that I started with wood sculpting. That was my first education and marble came later When I moved to Italy.
Christian Bolt ‘On Human Beauty’ runs until 23rd December 2023 at Impulse Gallery, Haldenstrasse 19, 6006 Lucerne, Switzerland.