Hervé WAHLEN (1957)
Hervé Wahlen was born in Oran, Algeria in 1957. He got a baccalaureate in literature before teaching himself engraving techniques with a burin in 1980 and then in 1981 the technique for hammering sheets of metal known as dinanderie , named after Dinant, the Belgian town where copper and brass utensils were first made in the fourteenth century. To begin with he also devoted himself to painting, sculpture in coloured cement, wood and stone, and hot metal stamping. He also made silver liturgical objects for Chéret, Paris, and in 1994 designed furniture prototypes and participated in the making of large-scale metallic sculptures for international commissions.
After a number of years, Hervé Wahlen chose to devote himself to dinanderie in order to elevate the craft to the level of true art at the dawn of the third millennium: 'My initial contact with copper drove me to touch and mould the substance directly with my hands and I try to reproduce this emotion by creating sculptures that invite direct contact.'
Thus the hand of the artisan-artist who moulds the work and the hand of the visitor who caresses it are behind the emotions provoked by the material: the sculptor wants to introduce touch as an essential means of perceiving the object during the process and in its finished form. The artist at work is still controlled by the material: 'Once the general form is determined, I begin to improvise. With this technique I have to factor in surprises, accidents and overall twists of fate.' So Hervé Wahlen passes from one piece to another and then comes back to the first, allowing time to tame these unpredictable and capricious elements: 'patience and optimism' are allies of the solitary artist who each year creates between 20 and 25 works.
The forms made of hammered sheets of copper are then patinated, partially gilded with gold leaf and polished with wax, but the magnificent result also stems from a process that the artist keeps secret.
These sculptures with rounded, sensual lines are usually inspired by basic geometric figures, but you can often open them up to discover surprising forms inside (eg Ouverture 1999), as though the artist had given them the juicy flesh of a sliced open fruit (eg Profil 2013). Their position within a dynamic equilibrium, defying the laws of gravity (due to the use of ball-bearings), also makes them enigmatic (eg Sweet Line 1998): this contributes to the mystery of the works, whilst at the same time symbolising the nature of the artist who says he is between 'wisdom and madness, dreams and reality'.
The work of Hervé Wahlen is found notably in the collections of Bill Gates in the United States and the Fonds National d'Art Contemporain in the Île-de-France.
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Art works from Hervé WAHLEN
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