The world is the world as we see it, it is a real-life experience

By Uwe Haupenthal

It is the conception of the assemblage
which defines Menno Fahls sculptures and
largely renounces the reproduction of perceived,
natural reality in the process. Heterogenous
shapes create an autonomous
entity. The woods used show clear signs of
wear and tear and are left in their original
condition. The various parts constitute a
rather unwieldy configuration, adapted to
the necessities of sculpting, and take a subordinate
role to structural design. The composition
and execution focus on innovation
and spontaneity in equal measure. Sculpture
in no way detaches itself from a completed,
single result. Rather it defines itself
as an open sculptural process, comprehensible
to the beholder.
With his use of paint,Menno Fahl simulates
an optically grounded unity. Diversematerials
are subordinate to the overall impression,
whereby the shapes are conveyed in a
self-contained, graphic-picturesque system.
Three dimensionality is lost in a polyfocal
pattern. Its colourful character is varied
again by the addtion of certain patterns.
Shapes define a clear and visible geometric,
seemingly weightless structure, the design
ofwhich tends towards a relief aswell as allowing
a flowing transition to painting or
graphics. The additive structure principle of
assemblage suspends the sculptural character
of the figure and instead brings about a
confident genre-overlapping approach.
Menno Fahl´s figural design is based on the
principle of sculptural parity. Figural patterns
follow their own modalities and are
individually justified. The variable patterns
requiring artistic invention are what count.
Nonetheless, its parameters remain strictly
related to each other and guarantee a
sculptural based balance, which never becomes
noncommital or even arbitrary. The
beholder, on the other hand, is required to
step outside his usual passive role to evaluate
the particular sculptural factors and to
reconceive the figure.
In a series of works conducted at the same
time, reliefs emerge in which Menno Fahl
focuses once more on the imaginative
power of paint and the seemingly heterogenous
materials available. Mask-like facial
forms are sometimes only recognisable at a
second glance. The attributed semantics no
longer accept certain obligatory patterns
and expose the figural moment to a permanent
artistic stream. The possible expression
of a head is lost in a superior design approach.
Eye shapes are often absorbed by an
almost arbitrarily long array, which lends
them the impression of a fixed and unmistakable
gaze. What does count however, is
the discernable presentation of the material-
related artistry. For this reason, a formal
work or a work depletive of content cannot
ultimately emerge from the oeuvre of the
artist. The solution provokes a virtual antipole.
When Menno Fahl restricts himself to the
reproduction of pure surfaces, as in his
prints using the medium of collage, this determines
a figural consolidation in a surprising
way. Figures are usually recognisable,
and are complete with head, neck, torso,
arms, and legs as if the primal cell of alienation
lies within them. Clearly structured
black outlines and partial interior drawing
allows for quick and unmistakable identification.
The simple, almost arbitrary figural pattern
calls for a constant new creation of the
sculptural theme while at the same time
making a high degree of innovative power
indispensable. The recurrent role of nature
as a source of inspiration as well as being
corrective is replaced by a strictly constructivist
style. This renders the unconventional
resolution possible while conversely knowing
how to systemise and control it.
The recourse to free structures has a long
tradition in 20th century sculpture. After
the first world war, Johannes Itten initiated
the experience of free sculpture design in
the obligatory prep courses at the Bauhaus
Pablo Picasso´s dialectic form concept dealt
with the positive-negative balance and
showed an almost playful execution. His cubic
works rule out an additive figural composition
as well as a metamorphic penetration
of single areas of sculpture. Reproduction
derives from a deductive -based
context, in which the material plays a prescinding
role. Autonomous conceptual designs
forge the moment of reproduction
again in front of the beholder.
If Menno Fahl is encouraged in his sculptural
innovative approach by the highly artifical
maelstrom of primitive art from
Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas,
then the dadaistMERZ art of Kurt Schwitter
with its assemblage and collages consisting
of arbitrary finds, materials and bits and
pieces, provides him with a wide receptive
It is the mask-like imagery, that is to say an
unnatural figurativeness, which Menno
Fahl confidently pursues in the sculptural
tradition of the second half of the 20th cen-
tury. Artists like Jean Dubuffet of the Art
Brut, and artist groups COBRA and SPUR
provided crucial support by calling for an elementary,
instantaneous visual language,
which uncovered the character of thematerials
as well as their artistic accomplishment.
This applies to the type of figural simplification,
how the innovatively staged
processing in turn endorses the figurativeness.
It also applies to the openly confrontational
interaction with the materials used,
the shape and the paint. In the 1950s, Asger
Jorn wrote in a programmatic script: `Let us
at least admit that the material plays – it
even plays with the person – and that this
game, which is an apparent coincidence, is
the futile and uneconomical force of development
which creates a purpose, possibilities
and meaning …´ Experience of reality
traces back to open antagonism, which is
portrayed with the same intensity in the
works of Menno Fahl. Its sculptural implementation
ultimately defies rational explanation.
In the process, Menno Fahl focuses
on a dialogic open, autonomously designed
process vis-à-vis the beholder, which at the
same time, has an inprescriptable figural
checkpoint. His sculptures, as well as his
graphic works, instead of providing steadfast
truths, impart an irrational moment,
which the beholder has to confront again
and again.


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