To Capture the Process
There are two things I discovered watching Lothar work that seem to stand out in this man-the sculptor.
One is his ability to visualize and extract such unique forms from the world around him - to merge that which he sees with that which he imagines - and then be able to find and shave this shape out of rock.
The second is his incredible love for the process. One can not create great works in stone, or any other medium for that matter, out of mere love for the result. One must love the process. For the sculptor is a stone carver first and last and only does success, with his ability to transform that inner image to the real world, make him a creator of sculpture.
It was this transformation from heart and mind to stone that I looked to capture ...
Bob Bagley (photographer)
In the heights of the Altissimo mountain range in Northwestern Italy, white clouds mingle with the white rock faces exposed by the stone quarries of Carrara. This is the lofty home of the Carrara marble, a material which the sculptor Lothar Nickel employs in many of his creations. In spite of their physical weight and solidity these sculptures betray a certain affinity with those fleeting cloud formations
"Nuvola" - Italian for cloud - is the title of one of his creations. Rather than referring to a merely outer similarity of form this title points to a deeper kinship which the artist experiences between his own working practice and the spontaneous formation and dissolving of clouds. The subtle fabric of steam is moulded into huge, floating formations which in our imagination conjure up a whole world of fabulous animals chasing each other across the sky. In likewise playful fashion the sculptor Lothar Nickel engages in a creative dialogue with his material, transforming it, as it were, into a pliable and fluid substance. Under his hands fluid movement condenses into form which appears as if imbued with life and soul.
The figurative element, when it appears, is not a starting point but the result of a process in which the artist seeks to devise sculptural movements and spatial gestures which echo the inner experience of his own corporeality, his keen interest in life and his empathy for all ensouled creatures, be it animal or man. Lothar Nickel invents sculptural characters which develop a life of their own. In the sculpture "Himalama" for instance, he embodies a kind of fabulous animal which calls upon the viewer to contemplate the artist's work by inventing the creature's own life story.
Lothar Nickel's sculptures derive their vitality and color from the tension between such contrasting qualities as weight and levity, crude materiality and graceful surface refinement, bold three-dimensionality and subtle surface relief, playfulness and geometrical order. The material itself, its color and texture, further contribute to the rich fabric of sensorial experiences offered by the sculptures.
The artist's creative method of serious play, which is informed by the material and it's properties, can be best seen exemplified by his series of steel sculptures. Here the artist imposes upon himself the conscious restriction of creating a sculpture out of one piece of industrial steel pipe. Through cutting, fragmentation and combination the sculptor succeeds to enliven and transform the given cylindrical space of the pipe. In the sculpture "Figurative" he ventures to create a sense of musical resonance in the interval between two pipe fragments, in the sculpture "Wind" inner and outer space of a big pipe section become inverted and are brought into dynamic motion which extends far beyond the physical boundaries of the sculpture. The playful and sometimes surprising combination of elements betrays the sculptor's artistry and an inherent sense of humor. In his sculpture "Taurus" the crudely shaped block is boldly crowned with a sickle-shaped steel form which attempts to redeem the enclosed existence and bulkiness of the stone and integrates it into the surrounding space.
Lothar Nickel's sculptures come to life as a synthesis of his sensitive yet confident mastery of materials and his delight in playfully contrasting different sculptural elements. His creations refrain from seeking after effect and outer monumentality. They touch the viewer by virtue of their subtle vitality and the inwardness with which the artist imbues the inanimate substance.