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Elmar Trenkwalder

Collection presentation

The Austrian artist Elmar Trenkwalder turned to ceramics in 1986, a field that now plays a clearly dominant role in his work alongside painting and drawing. Trenkwalder is not so much a sculptor as a plastic artist. Using additive methods based on the artistic material clay, his work has reached dimensions and a degree of freedom that are limited only by the structural characteristics of the unfired material. The artist’s works, which are mostly precisely prepared by means of drawings and models, now tower to impressive heights. They are highly complex ensembles made up of numerous individual components, each tailored to the format of the kiln, whose exact interplay bears witness to the artist’s experience and virtuosic handling of the shrinking process of the material as it cooks.

Always characterised by strict structural symmetry, Trenkwalder’s works fascinate the viewer not just with their wealth of minute detail, but also with their ambiguity. In their formal associations, they are redolent of Art Brut, Mannerism, Rococo and Art Nouveau, while the glazed ceramic architectures recall Hindu or Khmer temples and other structures that reach up heavenwards, or structures from science fiction or fantasy worlds, without ever referring to them expressly. Upon closer examination, their basic forms and details reveal themselves often quite independently to be explicit or highly allusive erotic motifs whose function is mostly ornamental and that appear frozen in a kind of organic metamorphosis, uniting the male-phallic and the female-folded in a peaceful, joyful and perhaps ironic co-existence. Trenkwalder’s formal vocabulary is that of the fantastic and dreamlike. The fusion of abstract and figurative forms in such abundance has something obsessive about it. The excessive combination of ornament and Eros contains a note of transgression and subversion. His work “provides access to previously unexplored continents of the suppressed, the taboo and the unfamiliar, thus allowing insights into the sublime spaces of the human soul.” (H.-P. Wipplinger)

Vue de l'exposition ELMAR TRENKWALDER du 05/10/2013 au 09/03/2014 au
© Mudam Luxembourg - Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean photo : Rémy Villaggi

Trenkwalder’s interest is genuinely artistic in nature: the sensuous directness of the production in the way the material is treated is followed by the sensuousness in the perception of his works, whose colourful glazes, surface structure and sheer size speak straight to the viewer. His focus lies on the issue of space that has always been central to sculpture, on the exploration of the relationship between architecture and ornament and on the question of the function of detail. The relationship between the extravagantly designed frames and the image space is also interrogated. Trenkwalder’s sumptuous art is of a great formal and conceptual complexity. It provides viewers with an intensive viewing experience and allows them to feel (in a purely visual sense, naturally) and comprehend its characteristic universe.

Elmar Trenkwalder was born in 1959 in Weißenbach am Lech (Austria). He lives and works in Innsbruck.


  • Clément Minighetti