texts about my work

Three comments about Susanne Kraissers artwork

When talking about sculpture, nowhere near enough is said about perspective. The artist´s perspective, his or her view point, is not just something for painters or photographers to focus on. Those who examine it closely must initially question why sculptors have lost competence over this field in the public sphere. This probably does not have as much to do with the emergence of photography in the late nineteenth century as it does with the radical narrowing of human vision resulting from the media explosion in the second half of the twentieth century. The sculptor´s particular perspective was lost, and as most sculpture work is today only portrayed through images, the photographer´s perspective has superseded that of the sculptor in public perception.

This problem is considered to be heightened for figurative sculpture: In photos of sculptures, it is primarily the photographer´s motive and view which are apparent. However, this should not give rise to culturally pessimistic thoughts on the almightiness of the flat image, but instead call on the viewer´s ability to imagine three-dimensional creations. Those who appreciate images only while sitting don´t need to adopt any specific position, but can certainly think about what it would be like to stand in a room and come face to face with a sculpture. The simple exercise has far-reaching consequences for this webpage, as it prompts “active” page-turning: “What does an arm or a bent hip mean – spatially?”

An awareness of the special perceptions of sculpture must be developed, and Susanne Kraisser´s work contains an interesting key to this. Her pieces are characterized by two groups: whole figures and body details. The scale of these groups appears counterintuitive: The whole figures are tiny, while the body parts are large and bulky. The sculptress uses this simple method to address the issue of distance, and relate it to the viewers´s body. Those who think this through discover that Kraisser´s decision is not that different from a photographer´s decision to gain an overall view or pick out certain details; although the sculptress enhances this with an absolute scale.

This absolute scale is essential for modern-day sculpture work. The figures cannot be enlarged or reduced in size, as this is not an idea which can be realized in any old format; it is an structure which only makes sense in that specific form. Each detail then takes on its meaning, not because it looks like a knee, a foot or breasts, but because it is a form articulated and accentuated in this specific scale.

Susanne Kraisser is to be considered as part of great modern figurative tradition. She focuses on the issue of how observation of living organisms can take on a fixed form which still reflects its origins. It is this paradox which makes this type of art so attractive. When suspense is created by a small shape which is actually reminiscent of a back and doesn´t merely refer to a back because there is a navel on the other side - that is when Kraisser really demonstrates her strength. Her figures of young girls even convey attitude and character through their elaborate posture and demeanour. They are not real people, of course, but when observing them, the viewer believes he/she can sense how these women feel: not totally free.

Those who examine the field of present-day figurative sculpture as a whole, will discover that most artists either focus on simulating nature or designing forms and shapes. Susanne Kraisser chooses to take the difficult path between these two extremes. Her art is defined by the feedback between life and form, an form and life. In each individual figure and each individual relief.

The spatial aspect of this sculpture work is based on feedback. Although the arms of the small girls are thin, they are full of strength because they are, first and foremost, clear, spatial forms. Not in terms of simplification, but in terms of conciseness. It is this particular conciseness – the fact that a viewer naturally understands spatial contexts created by the artist – which disappears in photos. But readers can still sense it.

Dr. Arie Hartog, director of sculpture museum Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen, Germany
January 2012

Artist Statement

For me, sculpture is particularly shape and material, volume and size, space, movement and statics.
I focus on the ‘female body’, presenting it either as an intimate miniature or on a monumental scale – each time as a solitary figure.

In terms of content, my work focuses on identifying and combining polarities, such as instability and strength, fragility and solidity, activity and passivity, movement and statics, balance and volume, and dependence and autarchy.

I work predominantly with the materials bronze, aluminium and wood. The small miniatures are made from wax and are then cast in bronze as part of what is known as the wax smelting process. Large-scale pieces are similarly cast in aluminium or created directly out of wood. The various work processes and tools determine the appearance of the surface; for wax, it’s my hands, and for wood, it’s my chainsaw.

Each material is a new challenge for me. My previous wood-sculpting studies involved respecting the material’s limits to create craft of solid quality in keeping with the material.
But this is where the intense discussion and its limit become clear. I fight with the material, and a lot of things go wrong. It becomes my opponent, whose limits I test out and reset if necessary. Cautious movements requiring a lot of physical tension are maintained without losing their inner dynamics.

Amidst the often harmonious external form is a harsh dissonance evidenced by the rough, fragmented design of the surface. Wear marks and slashes remain like the scars of a wound, and prevent the audience from getting too close to the figure. It can only be identified as such from a distance, which, if reduced, causes the figure to disintegrate into a mere structure.

This volatility enhances the expression of fragility and vulnerability inherent in the figures. The surface’s temporariness combines autonomy and perfection.

Susanne Kraisser