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Ernst Gamperl

In today's age It has become painfully apparent that any design by an artist capable of blending the innovative with the traditional could potentially constitute a problem for the artist if the design were merely judged on the basis of it's being "de rigeur" as opposed to "obsolete" - involving only these two criteria - to make a snap-second judgement of approval or rejection - hence making it almost an impossibility to display 'fairness' toward it's artistic creator.

However - with Ernst Gamperl's works these considerations never really have become an issue: his designs are simply there ever - present, full of 'oomph', and enthralling to a beholder in search of something truly new and different, something he or she may have never seen before.

It is Ernst Gamperl's very own secret how to playfully add ever new facetts to his artful craft to be in keeping with the present and to simultaniously create outstanding wooden vessels and bowls with which one could comfortably live for many years to come, an amazing fact indeed, which has not gone unnoticed by many collectors - not only in Europe but also in Japan, Korea and the United States of America. Yes, Ernst Gamperl and his creations are here to stay!

Prof. Dr. Florian Hufnagl
Die Neue Sammlung
Museum für angewandte Kunst und Design in der Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

" Whilst training in carpentry Ernst Gamperl turned to the lathe rather by chance, and embarked on his lifelong love affair with wood. Starting out an autodidact with no previous knowledge of the art, Gamperl was unhampered by convention in his approach to turnery. From the outset he devoted his energies to the same artistic issues he was to toil at ever after. Even today he carves similar shapes time and again, improvising ever-new details, and time and again he juxtaposes structures and profiles to create a whole that is completely novel, hitherto unknown. Though Gamperl used to be ever on the lookout for precious, exotic woods, he has since come to prefer European wood like maple, beech, Italian olive tree and principally oak. During his first few years at the lathe he would turn “rough forms” out of freshly-cut wood that took a long time to dry before they could be treated, but now he exclusively uses wet wood. Gamperl’s early works display precision craftsmanship and clearcut design; his more recent receptacles employ minimalistic, archaic forms and surfaces to bring out the beauty of the wood with compelling effect. '

Ernst Gamperl’s sculptures aren’t just turned on the lathe, they’re the fruit of years of painstaking toiling with his medium: wood. Over the past 20 years he has studied its drying properties and their impact on the sculpture. He knows it’s a give and take, a dialogue with the material, he can never force a shape upon it. Working out the implications of this insight is a challenge that always spurs him on.

Curved edges and bulges, projections and indentations emerge out of the natural deformation of the wood. They are part and parcel of the design, as are branches and irregular growth formations, and fissures and fractures that he consciously repairs and controls. The immanent expressive power of the material, the grain, lines and colouring, its softness or hardness, compact heaviness or paper-thin transparency is underscored by his treatment of the surfaces: waxing and polishing, scrubbing out the streaks or carving filigree parallel grooves, contrasting smooth and shiny with rough-hewn, scarred surfaces.

What makes the sculptor’s works what they are, however, is not only his virtuosity and material, but the forces that have been acting on the tree and its growth for centuries. Whether it is solitary or grove-growing, on fertile or hungry soil, exposed to wind and weather and outside influences – all these factors are engraved indelibly on the “memory of the grain” and give the receptacle its final form. Naturally enough, Gamperl is loathe to chop down a centuries-old tree, so he uses trunks that could not stand their ground against the wind or had to be felled for other reasons. On the bottom of each receptacle you’ll find the turner’s mark and work number, the year it was made and, quite importantly, the age of the tree.

To close with the words of architect Louis I. Khan, “Ask the wood what it would be.” Ernst Gamperl has the gift of turning wood into what it would be. And that’s fabulous.

The " Sawmill " of Ernst Gamperl, in Vesio de Tremosine, Italy, overlooking Lake Garda:

" A gathering of trees, trees uprooted by storm or condemned to felling, trees by the dozen, trunks lying groundwards, their mighty circumference bearing witness to a powerful and undisturbed process of growth, trunks marked by the accidents of a growth history which is prey to the vagaries of the elements, trunks now in a tranquil state of rest, waiting to be selected and put to the test.

Moving from tree to tree, the grain tells the story of the passage of the time, identifying this oak as the focus of druidic ceremonies, that tree as a speaking tree, allowing the artist to appreciate these venerable trees, to recognize the spirit, movement and soaring expression of what Gaston Bachelard has called " the body language of trees ", and to measure to trials endured by the trunk in its hollows and distortions, the slow work of nature and that combination of earth, air and water which goes to make up the memory of the tree.

In his workshop, Ernst Gamperl employs the technique of turning, which involves the rotation on a lathe of a piece of timber which is shaped by the use of a cutting tool. This technique was described by the Egyptians as early as 1350 B.C., and was further developed in Europe during the Middle Ages. Timber is thinned, shaped, hollowed, grooved and chamfered by the use of gouges, chisels, hook tools, cutters and chisels.

Although turning is generally applied in the direction of the fibres of dry timber, Ernst Gamperl prefers to use green timber, which is cut widthwise rather than longitudinally, by turning against the grain.

This preference, in combination with a perfect mastery of the technical process of turning, provides a broader scope for the form of the work piece. As the natural lifecycle has yet to reach its conclusion, the choice of green timber allows space for the dynamic forces of nature to create fault, breaks and shrinkages, trials to the extreme which pursue the history rooted in the tree to its ultimate destiny, in which the imprint of the work of Ernst Gamperl both clarifies and gives free rein to the memory of the tree. "