Stephan Balkenhol

sculpture, wood
1043 × 85 cm

In front of the atrium of The Hague University of Applied Sciences is a ten-metre tree trunk, stripped of its bark, the upper part carved into the figure of a man. The thick trunk itself is smooth, but the figure has been roughly hacked out – the marks of the chisel are still visible, forming the sculpture’s the innumerable facets. The hair, eyes and clothing have been painted but, as with the carving, the paintwork is rough and without detail. This is no hero towering above us – instead, Stephan Balkenhol has positioned an ordinary man, clad in white trousers and a green shirt, upon his gigantic pedestal.

Despite its size, the enormous scale of its surroundings, means that the sculpture does not seem out of place to the viewer. From each of the different floors that encircle the great hall, it is always within view, but the sculpture in its entirety, like the figure at its summit, is neither conspicuous nor dramatic, never overpowering. It is simply present – the shirt’s green colour just enough to ensure that the work catches your attention.

In terms of material and technique, there is a strong contrast between the smooth materials and rigid architecture of the hall itself, and the tree trunk, which brings an element of naturalness, humanity and craftsmanship into the factory-like atmosphere of the atrium.