Winner of the 2016 Loewe Foundation Craft Prize for his work ‘Tree of Life 2.’ Ernst Gamperl is a self-taught artist and master craftsman who, who over many years has achieved an extraordinary understanding of wood. In creating the beautiful, organic vessels from primarily fallen maple, beech, and oak, and selecting wood that he finds “full of character,” Gamperl allows branches, knots, and fractures in the wood to dictate the shape of his vessels, sculpting in conversation with his material—a slow give-and-take that minimizes evidence of the artist’s hand to reveal the power of the wood’s natural form.
What makes the sculptor’s work what they are, however, is not only his virtuosity and material, but also the forces that have been acting on the tree and its growth for centuries. Whether it is solitary or grove-growing, on fertile or hungry soil, exposed to wind and weather and outside influences- all these factors are engraved indelibly on the “memory of the grain” and give the receptacle its final form. Naturally enough, Gamperl is loathe to chop down a centuries-old tree, so he uses trunks that could not stand their ground against the wind or had to be felled for other reasons.
On the bottom of each receptacle you’ll find the turner’s mark and work number, the year it was made and, quite importantly, the age of the tree.
“I look for pieces of wood full of character with knots, irregular growth patterns, tears, breaks and interesting details. With the fundamental structure of a piece of wood in mind I am then guided by the raw material and my emotions to bring out its beauty.”