Interview between Robert Domes and Christian Rudolph in summer 2016
Why do you devote yourself to art?
I feel a deep and personal urge to do something creative. My objective is to create something that goes beyond everyday use but that still is associated with artisanal activity. The link between creativity and craft has always been important to me. This kind of manual work grounds me.
How did you get into sculpting?
My initial training was in applied arts. I made a lateral career shift later on. Following my apprenticeship as a goldsmith and a short period as a journeyman, I did an internship with a sculptor. This experience had and continues to have a lasting influence on me. I then enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg in order to take a metal work class with Professor Hössle, who fervently believed students should work in all fields of metal design – gold- and silversmithing, design and sculpture - in order to have a comprehensive and artisanal craftsmanship training.
You eventually had the courage to shift from art craftsmanship to art.
This path went from my apprenticeship until after my studies. Following my training as a goldsmith, I was already working freelance, but in the field of applied art. My wish to express myself through sculpture, however, continued to grow, and I wanted to pursue this using the formal canon I had learned during my internship and while studying with my professor: form follows function. I have absorbed this principle in my design language, right down to my present work, all of which is austere and resolute.
What was the path like from your initial efforts to your present work?
It is important to develop an original artistic vision, which can sometimes take ten to fifteen years. Only in this way can one hold one’s own in the art market. If you look at one of my recent metal sculptures, its formal language is not only the result of a continuous development of what I learned during my studies, but, rather, also the result of various breakthroughs. For example, the series ”Klappung“ was developed from squares and circles. This work does not have the quality that is associated with my work today. In my current work, it is important that the viewer is able to recognize my style, to read my name in it.
Which artists were a model for you ?
During and after graduation I worked in an art foundry in Nuremberg as a shaper, welder and engraver. During that time, I got to know a lot of interesting artists and sculptors who have had a sustainable influence on me and my work. This has been especially true of Ernst Geserer, a figurative sculptor working in Regensburg. I learned a lot working with him. There are, of course, many famous contemporary sculptors who have a similar design language and who have been role models for me. Chillida and Richard Serra, for example.
Why do you work in metal? What is special about the material?
The interesting thing is that metals are so complex, that there are so many different metals, that they react differently and vary in how hard, soft, strong and conductive they are. Bronze, for example, behaves fundamentally differently from steel.
From where do you get your inspiration?
Rather than from nature, my ideas and inspiration are based on my artistic style grounded in geometry. My work is not representational. In most cases I am inspired by architectural and technological elements. The tracks in space came about more coincidentally.. I found a photo that depicted light moving through darkness, and I began to think about how I could depict these tracks or paths in metal. First, I “played” to see what happens with paper strips. Finally, I reached some results that I developed into a series.
What is the process that leads from the initial idea to the finished work?
At first, I have an idea in my head. I then try to transform this idea into something concrete using paper or other materials. Using the paper models, I look for a way forward, a way to transpose or realize the idea. At this stage I have to think about how I can implement it technically. My knowledge of the metal industry helps me here, as does my experience in the foundry and as a welder. On my models, I can clearly see how I have to cut, form, roll, punch or press the pieces to achieve my goal.
Are you able to do all this in your own workshop?
I try to execute as many work processes as possible on my own. This is not just to save money; it also allows me to monitor and adjust as many phases in the development process as possible. I contract out the preliminary work, things like laser cutting, waterjet cutting and bending larger pieces of sheet metal. Then I assemble the pieces together in my workshop.
It is very important to you that you put the finishing touches on your work.
I have a very specific idea of how my pieces are supposed to look. If you want to create exact forms, everything has to be just right, including the surface. If there are any dents or flaws on it, this is immediately apparent. The simpler and clearer the form, the more obvious the errors. And I do not want to fall back on artistic freedom. I have to preserve the precise form, with all the consequences this entails, so that it is convincing.
What is more important, craftsmanship or the artistic-creative aspect?
Although this idea is frowned upon in some circles, I believe both have to be present. When art is convincing, then both the craft and the creative aspects are as they should be and complement each other.
One is tempted to touch your works because of their haptic quality. Do you mind this?
That's part of it. One has to be able to touch a sculpture. Even at fairs and exhibitions, people ask if they can touch my work. They then stroke the pieces and are enthusiastic about their surfaces. I think that's perfectly legitimate. And I am also pleased.
Are you a perfectionist?
I tend to be one when it comes to my art work. I still sometimes doubt myself, and wonder if I cannot up the ante. This is perhaps what drives me to keep going.
Is there a "message" you'd like to convey in your works?
I'm not a philosophical, socially critical or political artist. Thus, there is no message in the absolute sense. My form language is based on basic geometric shapes that I quote, edit and modify.
That is, you do not prescribe how the viewer should see your works?
The open-ended quality of my forms allows for different interpretations. One sees an animal where another sees the original idea of a tracer path, and, still others see a purely aesthetic element or discover calligraphy in my work.
Every work of art embodies part of the artist who made it. Which of your characteristics distinguish your art?
I try to keep my life manageable, not to let it get too complicated. Maybe an element of this approach is in my works. They depict clarity, simplicity, accountability and a structured nature.