Works by Iron Sculptor Paul Wiedmer on View at Museum Tinguely
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Works by Iron Sculptor Paul Wiedmer on View at Museum Tinguely
Paul Wiedmer, Objets boudlés: Kt. Freiburg, 1974. Metal, 46 x 58 x 50 cm.

BASEL.- The Museum Tinguely, Basel presents until January 24, 2010 the exhibition Fire and Iron with works by the iron sculptor Paul Wiedmer. The show is dedicated to an artist who, after his early years as assistant to Bernhard Luginbühl, Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, started to produce his own unique oeuvre. Iron and fire are combined in his sculptures, resulting in Feuerskulpturen, Feuerbäume, Feuerpaläste. But Wiedmer is also intensely interested in the clock. The nine sculptures ZeitZeichen reflect major inventions in the field of the mechanical measuring of time.

Born in 1947 in Burgdorf, Paul Wiedmer started off as assistant to Bernhard Luginbühl in 1967 and a year later, got to know Jean Tinguely in Paris. He was one of the first to collaborate from its beginnings in 1970 on the Cyclop, the immense walk-in sculpture that Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint Phalle, Bernhard Luginbühl and many other artists erected in the woods of Milly-la-Forêt, an installation for which the artists created specific works of art. Wiedmer also participated in Niki’s Golem (Jerusalem, 1972) and above all in her Tarot Garden that was developed as of the mid-Seventies in Garavicchio, Southern Tuscany.

Simultaneously, he started to create his own work. From 1974 on he produced his Fire Sculptures – funnel-shaped, almost floral-like iron structures welded from iron scrap and in which from time to time a gas burner spews a flame to add a touch of movement and colour.

The series of Objets boudlés originated in 1975 and 1976. With the help of a metal detector, Paul Wiedmer pursued his search for iron scrap in the fields and public parks in all the Swiss cantons (to which was added in 1984 the newly founded Canton Jura). Out of these chance finds sculptures of a very particular nature saw the day, completely in the tradition of the Nouveaux Réalistes whose works were based on found objects of daily use. But, with his Objets boudlés, Wiedmer also joins the ranks of a long line of iron sculptors, from Julio Gonzáles and David Smith via Richard Stankiewicz down to Bernhard Luginbühl, in whose works found elements often play a big role.

In 1981 and 1982, on a scholarship of the Swiss Institute in Rome, Wiedmer created his series Roma di Nero around the theme of fire. The reliefs and sculptures, black as the night, all fitted with a gas burner recall the great fire of Rome set off by Nero in the year 64. The city lives but is constantly reminded of its decline. During this stay he had discovered close by, in the valley of La Serpara near Civitella d’Agliano (Latium), a spot, where he has resided since and installed a sculpture park.

In the meantime, La Serpara has developed into a garden where Paul Wiedmer presents not only his own sculptures but also those of numerous other artists. Embedded in a vale with rich tree growth to either side, Wiedmer’s artistic universe spreads out on a field and along the banks of a brook. During the last years, art communication and exhibitions including other artists play an increasing role in Paul Wiedmer’s oeuvre.

In 1985, Wiedmer created out of material gathered on a scrap heap near Orvieto Omaggio a Luca Signorelli, the master of the extraordinary frescoes in the cathedral of this Southern Tuscan city.

The ZeitZeichen are also the result of a collaboration in 1998/99, this time with a time-piece artist, the classical philologist, physicist and clockmaker Ludwig Oechslin, director since 2002 of the International Clock Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The nine sculptures illustrate the major developments in the history of the mechanical clock, from the hanging clock weights to the springs, to the pendulum and balance. Paul Wiedmer has incorporated all this acquired knowledge in his sculptures, thus creating an elegant connection between art and science.

The WeinUhr that is being shown in Basel for the first time is also the result of a collaboration with Ludwig Oechslin. The central theme is the 100 days spanning the time from the flowering of the vine to the vintage. A contract work, this piece will be installed in a wine cellar in Portugal at the close of the exhibition in Basel.

But the main theme of the exhibition remains the union of iron and fire as exemplified in the Feuerskulpturen, Feuerbäume and in the Feuerpalast mit 21 Säulen. Fire, the primary element to produce iron, prise it out of the stone, make it mouldable and supple, appears in a gentle manner in Wiedmer’s sculptures. Fire is tamed, it can now enter into the museum!

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