The artist's work
Use of non-conventional materials
Product. Add lead, bitumen, iron oxide. Glue, of course. No conventional art materials; no marble, no bronze. Even the carton is not used as a canvas but as a construction material - as it is seen in the Arte Poveral, it is a conscious decision of the artist not to use what is available. But also it is no art-elucidation of what has been found. Lead, carton, bitumen would be quite suitable as material with aura and inner force only requiring minimal intervention to be declared as art. Lead is associated with artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Richard Serra, who as well as Bernd Wehner, have explored the possibilities of heavy and also toxic materials; but Wehner takes a uniquely different way.
His works are also to be read as a statement about materials. Smoothness, slickness, glamour are dreadful for him. Not in a way, however, that he would surrender the art pieces' surface to chance. It certainly receives the artist's attention when he works with the surface's rawness and traces of past utilisation to bring to life his sculptures.
Heaviness turns out to be lightweight
With great seriousness Wehner cuts and glues his sculptures, which are created in his studio in Freiburg. With lead foil from the junk ward which shows traces of previous use and environmental influences, a kind of 'skin' is created; an armour that protects the carton and makes it inaccessible.
The 'heaviness' deceives the viewer. It is not real. Is this already a clue, a critique to the world as we superficially see it? A comprehensive perception would reflect the lightness, but not the proverbial lightness of being. Rather, we may suspect a suggestion that in the end, a lot of heaviness turns out to be a lightweight: in art and in life anyway.
Making art visible
Über-Sized columns of lead with carton as their cores lend themselves to be seen as archaic. Appearing as if originating from another time, they grow toll; also resembling fossils or better, lead coatings of primeval plants. Or are they in fact artefacts of early hominids? Were they perhaps to serve cultic activities?
What is the meaning? The artist gives no hints. He leaves us with our own thoughts and concerns. Wehner succeeds in putting into motion an after thought which points to the fundamental. In the sense of Paul Klee’s definition that it’s not the visible that is being rendered, what else could it be with Wehner's work but to make art visible.
Way mark of modern art
In the 21st century, we don’t face Wehner’s work completely without any point of reference. The artist is a child of the 20th century and his work offers various way marks. Let us think of the time of Cubism, which has shaped the development of all that we know today as modern. Wehner's work would fit well together in a room with these way marks of modernity, confirming the correctness and importance a good 100 years after they have been created. The disassembling of the form as a process and the composition as a creation, which refuses to be smooth, remain rough and hold a balance between rejection and attraction.
Not to be dismissed is a connection to one of the great collages of Kurt Schwitters.
Wehner never succeeds in capturing the viewer with a rational form of speech that is difficult to analyse. The overpowering is comprehensible, in other words Wehner’s work grasps.
With its finely balanced constructions and aestetic materials, it makes a great impact. Intentionally and with great focus, it forgoes anything more. 'Forcing through mass' is not Wehner's thing. He relies on the power of the material in exactly the form which he has been looking for and which he has found.