Ruediger Szonell: An observer of our time
His work mirrors the world. We are talking to the artist Ruediger Szonell about both - art and the time we live in.
As a sculptor, draughtsman, graphic designer and illustrator, Ruediger Szonell shows reality in a multifaceted, striking but nevertheless profound way. No matter if he captures scenes from the street and elaborates their subtle melancholy graphically, or if he shows humans as grey display dummies in his installations and sculptures, his art is always molded by a kind of different way of realism, which is able to show reality underneath the surface.
For this, he not only gets international appreciation at his many exhibitions - amongst others in Italy, France, Monaco, Malta, Spain, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland, Egypt, the USA, Peru and Japan. He was also honored with several awards, as the first price of the 5. Grand Prix d’Art and an UNESCO medal at the 1. and 3. International Triennial of Art “Against the War” for example. For some time now, the educated woodcarver and graduate sculptor is suffering from multiple sclerosis. At the moment he is working at a new project at the moment, a series of graphics with the working title “Roads”.
CultureLoad: Mr. Szonell, you celebrate international success with your work. What is constitutional for your art?
Ruediger Szonell: It orients itself on our time. I’m often called a critical realist by critics, but I don’t like this expression very much. I would rather see myself as an observer of our time. My work exclusively addresses normal people, which is also the reason for my rather realistic style in all my fields of activity.
CL: You’re kind of holding a mirror up to the “normal people”. What do you want to communicate to your audience?
Sz: I was always fascinated by human’s behavior towards their environment and by the relationship between people, with all conflicts, aggressions, wars and damages of the environment. Unfortunately, art has never been able to change anything, but maybe it can communicate some thought-provoking impulses, that would be quite something.
CL: How did you get to express your interest for people through art?
Sz: Actually, I’m an “artist” since my school days, that’s why my intended career was almost inevitable, much to the disapproval of my parents.
CL: Have you been influenced by certain forms or styles in your artistic development?
Sz: In fact, I have always cut my own path and eluded every influence, for this reason I mostly acted totally against the current trend in the artistic community. Of course that doesn’t mean that I haven’t got special affectations for works out of various artistic areas. Styles are not important to me; they range from pre-Christian art to modernity.
CL: What does your art mean to you?
Sz: Art naturally plays a major role in my life, as actually everything centers on it. When I’m working, I forget everything. My partner’s question in the morning: “Aren’t you going to bed at all today?” is nearly a matter of routine. Unfortunately, my private life often suffers from my work, which requires a lot of patience and tolerance by my partner.
CL: Of what significance is an accredited education for you, like your studies at the Academy of Arts?
Sz: A well-grounded education seems very important to me. If the technical skills are given, everything can develop out of this, no matter which way the artist wants to go. The academic education nevertheless has a significant weakness: Marketing is hardly considered. The student actually isn’t prepared for his future professional life. Certainly, the freedom, that education provides, is highly valuable for the own artistic development. Seeing it this way, the education as a woodcarver after secondary school and before university was almost more important to me. It allowed me to make a living out of it through my first working years.
CL: How do you approach your work?
Sz: My work is absolutely systematic. Sculpting and drawing don’t pardon mistakes. I have to have a complete concept at least theoretically, before I can start working.
CL: Was there a special experience in your previous career?
Sz: My worst and at the same time best experience with art was an exhibition, where I presented an object, dealing with our recent past in Germany. It completely consisted of original parts from the 2nd World War. It was totally destroyed by visitors. Thereupon the exhibition had to be canceled. The positive aspect about it was the realization, that art is able to awake people sometimes and arouse totally unexpected emotions.
CL: You’re looking back at several awards, publications and exhibitions. How important is appreciation for you?
Sz: When you’re working professionally as an artist, that means having to and wanting to live on your work, the appreciation is of course really important. Even an artist is not able to survive without money in Germany; the patronage of former centuries doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately.
CL: You have presented your work all over the world. Are there national distinctions in dealing with art?
Sz: Actually, there are very big differences. For example: In southern Europe art naturally belongs to everyday life. People visit exhibitions without fear of embarking on something new, even with working clothes; the relationship to the artists is easy and unbiased. I’m afraid we are still far away from that in Germany, for which the artists are to blame too, to some extent. It’s hard for them to see themselves as normal people, doing normal work, like everybody else does. Integration is hard for both sides in this country yet.
CL: Currently you are working at a new project. Which dream would you like to fulfill yourself?
Sz: One dream, I would like to fulfill myself, would be to sculpture as untroubled as before my MS-disease. As a realist I know of course, that this will hardly be possible, but I’m happy to still be able to do my work, even if my field of activity has slightly changed.
Several of Ruediger Szonell's works can be seen and downloaded here on CultureLoad.
by Magdalena Schuessler
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