Almuth Tebbenhoff FRBS: Napoleon Garden
1 May 2014 - 3 November 2014
7.30am until 30 minutes before dusk
Napoleon Garden, Holland Park W8 6LU
Private View: 30 April 2014, 4:30pm – 6:30pm
Accompanying Exhibition in the Ice House Gallery, Holland Park, W8 6LU from 30 April 2014 - 1 May 2014, 11am - 4pm
‘When you realise the difference between the container and the content, you will have knowledge.’ The Book of the Book, Idries Shah, 1969.
To celebrate the work of female sculptors for the third year of the collaboration between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Royal British Society of Sculptors, we are delighted to present Sunset, a new work by Almuth Tebbenhoff FRBS, to be unveiled in Napoleon Garden, Holland Park on 30 April 2014.
The inspiration for Sunset came from The Book of the Book published by Sufi scholar Idries Shah in 1969. The story goes that a wise master attributed all his wisdom and knowledge to a book in his possession. He kept the book under lock and key and over the years his followers grew more and more curious about this marvellous font of wisdom. On his death the disciples rushed for the key and opened the book. They found the book to be completely empty except for the statement, ‘When you realise the difference between container and content, you will have knowledge.’. The rest of Shah’s 200-page book was blank.
One of the greatest mysteries is the sunset, the awesome beauty of which the artist attempts to momentarily capture in this work. Using the sculpture as both container and content she invites us to ponder our physical and spiritual relationship to the immense power of nature, to matter and form. Moving round the work, the contained sunset is glimpsed as a fleeting sensation of pure colour. In reality, it is not possible to actually capture the sunset so the container is open on all sides, just as the soul flows from its container: the body.
Much of the energy and concerns of Tebbenhoff’s work flow from a personal history of growing up in a recently war-torn Germany where millions of men and women had perished or were displaced in the two wars with her family being no exception. She left her home, a farm in a remote corner of North-West Germany for London when she was 17, where she has stayed, studied and worked ever since.
After abandoning the restrictions of clay, she revelled in the new-found appearance of lightness of steel and for years welded minimalist geometric shapes exploring themes surrounding the cosmos. These gradually gave way to a new technique of cutting and reforming the previously straight lines into open frame, freestanding sculptures. Each action of cutting, welding and grinding the structures and surfaces became a conscious act of bringing into being the emerging sculpture. The ever-evident process reflects all the knocks and hurts which define (and sometimes distort) the human condition and point to the fundamental mystery of the works’ invisible content.
Watch Nick Watson's fantastic film detailing the inspiration for and making of Almuth Tebbenhoff's Sunset.
About Almuth Tebbenhoff FRBS
Being born (1949) and brought up in post-war Germany on a remote farm surrounded by nature shaped Tebbenhoff’s early life. World War I claimed the life of Tebbenhoff’s grandfather in France in 1917, and her father fought and survived the Russian Front in World War II. He returned to a shattered Germany whose “shameful secret pervaded everything”. Having left home as a young man of 26, he never recovered from the experience and was left unable to express emotions other than rage. He escaped into the world of astronomy, a love of which he passed on to his daughter. Tebbenhoff’s schooling was fragmented, old fashioned and largely delivered by defeated and tired teachers. She set out on a mission to piece things together for herself, which took her to England aged 17, where she has stayed and found meaning through her practice. She studied ceramics at Sir John Cass of School of Art in London and was invited to undertake drawing classes at the Royal College of Art by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.
She started working with steel in the mid-1980s when she inherited her late father’s welding equipment (he had been a hobby blacksmith), which she took back to England after reaching the limit of what she could achieve using clay. After a fabrication course at South Thames College from 1985-6 she embraced steel as her main material. She has had many commissions including for Cass Sculpture Foundation, St George’s Hospital, London and has curated exhibitions at Leicester University as well as exhibiting at Kulturgeschichtliches Museum, Germany, ‘Crucible’ at Gloucester Cathedral and the Burghley Sculpture Show. She was awarded the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 1991, held a visiting professorship at the Stroganovska Fine Art Institute in Moscow in 1992, was awarded a 3 month residency at Studio Sem in Italy in 2006 and was given an Honorary Doctorate from Leicester University in 2013. www.tebbenhoff.org