minimalist dissonances 1

a conversation with the wood-carver gerhard trieb and tomas friedmann, director of the salzburg literature house . april 1996

how did you come to the wood-carving?

it was a development, evolving out of my life. my mother was a gentleman´s tailor. i watched her as a child – the way in which she knelt on the floor to draw patterns, drawing lines. it fascinated me. my father was a coach builder – that means he curved the wood: beech wood for skis or sledge, but coach wheels too. this physical activity of my parents influenced me and was certainly prompted my artistic work later. at first i worked as a draughtsman, as the project manager in a salzburg planning office. but even then an artistic leaning had made itself felt. i gave up my everyday job in 1988 to work freelance.

where did you learn the techniques – and how do you work?

i am autodidactic, i thought myself the technique of wood-carving. my work is sometimes traditional: with walnut and pear wood i work with conventional cutting tools. i use my own technique in larger projects. i have, for example, developed a technique with broken electric drill which i apply obliquely. the wood then frays to a great extent.

are you thematically circumscribed by the material, wood?

wood carving is rough work. wood resists. but it does not limit me. my wood carvings are not illustrations, on the contrary, i work abstractly, even though the materials are natural. my work is minimalist, i use hardly any colour, preferring black and white, i find the themes that stir me are interesting. i was like that with the trakl cycle, which came into being at a time when i was mentally strained by my transition from a day-to-day existence to a freelance artist. i also felt that i was being doubted by the world around me. in this situation trakl inspired me to cycle of wood-carvings, which were created from the gut.

but why georg trakl?

his life fascinated me, his dedication to art, which, by the way, i also discovered in john cage. i find this total commitment much less strongly in myself. for me it is not just a question of intellectual dedication, but also of the physical. it is exactly this tension between (physical) work and the intellect that i find so important. for me, art means not just aesthetic, superficial beauty, but research, going into the depths. i see parallels in trakl and cage, here in literature as in music.

could one say that you ”use“ certain patterns – artists and their work – for your?

the word ”use“ disturbs me a lot. i would call it ”tuning in”. i repeatedly involve myself in the work of other artists and artists´ biographies. i tune into them. it is a matter of the meaning and embodiment of the artistic power of expression. the reason for art is not only aesthetic, art should also reveal dissonance. 

wood gives resistance, art should also reveal dissonance: how important is resistance to you in your work, in your life?

for me, being an artist means to stand in opposition. i could never be a politician. i am much too introverted and would be afraid of being crushed between the fronts. but opposition is a motif of my art. and for me art means bearing responsibility, which is visible in ones personal work. wood carving arises from friction, the wood-carvers technique demands power and resistance. it is exactly the same in life. the artist is not a piece of driftwood without a will, he also works in opposition to social and political structures. this working in opposition is the deeper, more meaningful part of my work. i create art because there is nothing else left for me.