Stephan Marienfeld

Stephan Marienfeld has transformed sculptural processes into his own language by altering the form and meaning of materials in an ingenious way. Born in 1966, this trained stone sculptor was a pupil and assistant of Tony Cragg for many years. In the meantime, he has earned himself a highly regarded position as a sculptor both in Germany and internationally while having taught as a lecturer at the Kunstakademie Essen since 2003.

His artistic breakthrough came with his group of works “Dislikes” . He is thereby not only represented in the renowned collection of the Museum Voorlinden in the sculpture park of the Dutch collector Joop van Caldenborgh, but his “Dislike” sculpture can also currently be seen outside the Palazzo Mora as part of the Venice Biennale.

Bound to the trunk of a tree with a rope, or fastened to a column or wall as “Wall Dislike” , Stephan Marienfeld’s “Dislikes” shine in particularly powerful colors. With their smoothly polished polyester and lacquer surfaces, they capture the reflections of their surroundings. They invariably provide an effective contrast to their environment. A term derived from the modern digital world, the title “Dislike” makes us ask who disliked whom here: support medium and object merge to form an artificial unity. This heterogeneity manifests itself as a sensual pleasure – not least through the perception of an interplay of forces.

Stephan Marienfeld is an artist of extraordinary curiosity, experimentation and productivity. He creates an impressive sculptural oeuvre, which is divided into distinct, yet mutually corresponding groups of works.

Ever since he started to mold objects in the early 2000s, cast them in metal or other materials and bind them with a tightly stretched rope, his works have been exposing conventional material properties as illusions. The result is a paradoxical, extremely stimulating mixture of fascination and disillusionment. As a cubic form cast in concrete and bound, his “Cubes” and “Wall Bondages” appear to be deformed or crumpled by the ropes like a sponge. They call into question our categories of perception.

Cast in various shapes, coated with polyester, lacquered and polished, with various surfaces such as bronze, high-gloss aluminum, concrete and a porcelain-like mass, Marienfeld’s works impress with their special tactile feel. The intensive treatment of the surface enables an interaction of light and shadow that is central to the effect of these works. The roundish objects, including the so-called “blow-ups” exert an associative effect, calling to mind biomorphic organic forms and the human nude as the central reference for sculpture since antiquity.

What all his works have in common is that they do not present a main viewing angle, but rather are free-standing objects in the round that fully aspire to be viewed from all sides. They draw attention to genuinely sculptural questions of volume and linearity.

Tension is made visible, subtly erotic implications are evoked. Bondage signifies coercion, subjugation, and also ‘sexual dependence’ – the title of this series of works is reminiscent of the American writer Somerset Maugham, who raises fundamental questions in his 1915 masterpiece novel “Of Human Bondage” that center around man’s restriction and lack of freedom. Somerset Maugham derived the title from Spinoza’s “Ethics”, which deals with ‘human servitude’. Spinoza understands this to mean man’s powerlessness against his inner and outer nature.

All of Stephan Marienfeld’s bound and unbound objects cf. the group of works “CANS” , “Hidden” and “Now” in their diverse variations seem mysterious to us. The observer is denied an inner glimpse beneath the surface – perhaps this is precisely what creates tension within us. To be sure, they are aesthetically convincing.

Dr. Birgid Schmittmann, Düsseldorf