The return of the third dimention

The return of the third dimention

Christian von Faber-Castell

During the last few years, visits to exhibitions, galleries, and fairs, have made it quite obvious that sculpture and other three-dimensional art was making an impressive comeback. The reasons of this development which, by now, goes far beyond a mere fashion trend, are quite interesting because of their effect on culture and art history. This revived pleasure in the third dimension of art may be considered a spontaneous and immediate answer to an all too extensive and abstract approach to painting; for painting, merely by limiting itself to two dimensions, engenders and presupposes a substantial though often ignored or - such as in trompe l'oeil painting - intentionally hidden abstraction. Art is, among other things, a means to enjoy things through your mind and soul, spirit and feeling, heart and brain, with this pleasure ultimately and comprehensively to be understood as a stimulus or upheaval, a discussion or even shock. Any type of art that can only be grasped by thought and reason often conveys a merely incomplete and unsatisfying pleasure though.

In comparison, sculptures may truly and physically be touched and grasped in the very sense of the word, and if this tangible experience of sensuousness is paired with as strong an abstraction as the art created by Gabriela von Habsburg, the works thus created are nevertheless not difficult to grasp or anti-sensual or excessively burdened by theoretical issues but fairly charged with tension, stimulating and touching your brain, heart, and hands.

Stylistic movements and anti-movements are hardly new in the world of art - just think of the interaction of Impressionist dissolution and Cubist dissection, Expressionist exaggeration and factual-constructive reduction, and also the Art Deco answer to the all too opulent exuberance of Art Nouveau. But this need to make up for a deeply felt lack of an art appealing to the senses mirrored by the new and definitely sensual pleasure in sculptures and vividly three-dimensional art has to be considered within a broader scope than that drawn by a stylistic actio and reactio. The creation of a sculpture is always an act of craftsmanship, and it was this very craft element - not to be misunderstood in the arts & crafts sense though - that had increasingly disappeared from large areas of painting in the last few decades and was even intentionally banned for purism's sake.

This creative craft component of sculpting is complemented by the interaction between material and form as an additional element that may not, or at least not solely, be savoured by your head but also with your hands, eyes, and belly. In fact, it is this very interaction of form and material that provides modern and contemporary sculptures with a not always and immediately realized power to stimulate our imagination, speculation, and flights of intellect which can probably best be compared to similar effects of music.

An important moment, in particular for the amazing renaissance of monumental sculpture, again follows from the strongly emphasized and strict separation of function and ornament in many areas of contemporary architecture. This separation has, in turn, led to a new interpretation of art placed in, on, or around buildings, which no longer interprets and demands this art as a merely decorative element but a concertante counter-point to the building volume.

The fact that an artist as determinedly intellectual-constructional as Gabriela von Habsburg obviously is, in spite of her deep roots in history and tradition, at the same time moves in such a sovereign manner on the factual craft level of steel processing, cutting, shaping, and welding, seems to provide an appealing analogy to the highly charged interaction between the definitely real materials of her sculptures and their speculative, suggestive power which, time and again, entices receptive and susceptible beholders to embark on a quest of unknown spaces and worlds …

Christian von Faber-Castell in the catalog 'Five Continents', 2001