Hartmut Skerbisch

1945 (Ramsau am Dachstein/Styria) - 2009 (Kalsdorf bei Ilz/Styria)

Skerbisch studied architecture at Graz University of Technology. Exhibitions featuring his works were on show in Austria and abroad as early as 1969. His works already exhibited three basic positions at the beginning of the 1970s: he focused on the apprehension of space by means of architecture and sculpture, working with electronic media and their effect on society and with the anthropological modes of expression of the human being.

In his artistic work, Hartmut Skerbisch was committed to exploring the essence and possibilities of sculpture. In classical terms, sculpture is uncovering form from material. For Skerbisch the question was, what is the mystery of the objects that surround us and that we handle? He penetrated the objects, exploring the principles and secrets of nature and material with the aim of discovering how objects assume form and questioning the modes of action involved. His subjects and approaches were rooted both in art and in science.

For him, aesthetics had no intrinsic value, but was rather a “serving element” with which to transport subjects. Looked at that way, it may be true that the world can be told. The aim is to make structures visible. The fact that he mostly took his sculptures into public space has to do with their dimensions. Going beyond the measure of the human body is a precondition for the impressions and experiences that Skerbisch sought to offer. According to Skerbisch, the miniature and that which can easily be viewed is an appeal to the intellect. Something that one may take in by way of thought. But if the whole body is challenged, and if one must relate bodily to a work, this leads to different experiences that cannot be conveyed in any other way.

His most well-known works include the Lichtschwert (light sword) (1992/94) on Opernring Graz, that was designed for “steirischer herbst” and which was originally planned to be exhibited for a limited time only, but eventually became established as a landmark of contemporary art in Graz. This sculpture is a copy of the Statue of Liberty, albeit reduced to its frame. The artist’s interventions consist in replacing the torch with a sword and the tablet with a sphere. Another of the artist’s well-known works is the Solarbaum (solar tree), that was erected in the main square in Gleisdorf in 1998. This steel sculpture in the form of a tree is intended to urge people to economise on energy and resources with a view to the future. The aim is to visualise the forward-looking ideology of the town of Gleisdorf and, at the same time, to motivate everyone to use energy carefully.

The prominent contemporary artist always integrated a political statement in his art, in which he took a socio-political stance. Since 1990 his works have been shown several times at “steirischer herbst” and Hartmut Skerbisch also featured at K.U.L.M. on various occasions since 1997.