“My works are more a portrait of myself than the model”
WORDS BY EMILY TRACE | TORONTO | STUDIO SESSIONS
APR 14, 2023 | ISSUE 10
Hanako (2021, Nutwood) by Bruno Walpoth
"Pinocchio" (2022, Nutwood) by Bruno Walpoth
In his studio based in Ortisei, Italy, sculptor Bruno Walpoth carves human figures out of blocks of wood—namely limewood or walnut. Inspired by his interactions with the people around him and driven by his persistent desire to create, Walpoth made a complete commitment to his craft 15 years ago. Though he works with live models, his creations don’t always imitate the model. Noted for their intimate yet evasive facial expressions, the viewer might just catch themselves reflected in a sculpture’s gaze.
sM | The facial expressions of your sculptural creations are often subtle and understated. Do the expressions precede these sculptures or do you discover what the sculptures are feeling as you create them?
BW ── All my works are created through encounters and confrontations with people. Even if the realism and the concrete reproduction of the model gives me real pleasure and satisfaction, I am not interested in creating an exact or hyper realistic image of the person standing in front of me. Rather, the model serves in its appearance as a shell for implied projections. The feelings, which awaken in me during the working process, ultimately determine the expression of the figure. One could say that my works are therefore perhaps more a portrait of myself than of the model.
sM | Created from solid wood with an emphasis on anatomical realism, your sculptures take up a confident amount of space. However, they’ve been noted for the difficulty in engaging with them directly. How do you balance this sense of distance and presence?
BW ── For me, every new job is a new challenge to build suspense. The mixture of presence and absence, closeness and distance is exactly what I am looking for. The physical presence of my figures allows encounters, but it is difficult to get into direct contact with them.
"Nora" (2021, Nutwood) by Bruno Walpoth
It is not a matter of finding a balance between these different characteristics, but it is the viewer who has to decide what they get involved in. If they are open to an encounter with themself, then perhaps the figure becomes a reflection of their soul.