No more than an attempt can ever be made to give visual form to an angel. My first attempt is of an angel swooping down from the sky, similar to the angels which Giotto painted. Only the upper half of this angel's body, flying down to earth with its message, is visible; the rest of its form is lost in the atmosphere, like tongues of flame that dissipate in the air.
My angel is only a face emerging from the material, a face that is traveling down to earth as quickly as a flash of light. There is hardly time for the human face to materialize, it remains indistinct, and its wings are not feathered as they are in conventional representations, but instead are similar to structures as they appear in stone. They are structures which for me represent a manifestation of energy, even if it is only the energy that is necessary to produce a sculpture, an energy whose trace is the chisel marks. They also remind me of surface combinations like the ones found in crystal. The wing shape on my angel head, in which I have carved these structures, is a quotation; it is only meant to be a reminder of the way in which this heavenly being is customarily depicted. Only with wings, like those of a bird, can one imagine these celestial beings. The wings of my angel, however, are meant to convey the materialization of energy, and the final form of condensation would then be the human face, which mirrors thought and feeling, and facilitates understanding.
The most impressive depiction of an "angel's appearance" must surely be credited to the sculptor who created the Nike of Samothrace. The whole power of this portrayal is expressed in the garment, which is pressed against the body as if by a storm, and in the overheavy wings that have weathered every storm, even the storm of time, which has already robbed this wonderful sculpture of its head and arms and perhaps turned them to dust. I cannot erase from my mind this figure of a humanized and at the same time superhuman goddess of victory whenever I set to work on my own angel. Instead of wings, however, a wildly structured mass would erupt from the whole form of my angel; or, alternatively, the form of the angel would have to be worked in a splintering material with sharply cut and jagged iron, in so doing, the face and body only partially or vaguely worked out, so that one does not lose the impression of a fleeting appearance which is given form from some unknown power just for the moment in which the message, or pronouncement, is delivered. I would most like to see an angel depicted in sculpture entering our world in a manner similar to that of a burst of fiery light, like that which flies from a blast furnace, but I fear it is not possible to do such a thing in sculpture.
I can only create structures and forms, create a kind of chaos, in which an inclination toward order is visible. And order indicates a power, just as a whirlpool is a movement directed by power.
Of course there is also the angel figure which appears as a perfect expression of goodness. My angel, however, is to be in the first stage of his earthly appearance, the moment of materialization. My first attempt is the face, which projects from two indistinct wings. In reality, however, the "wings" are a glowing eruption, lines of force,structures of matter, which indicate an acting power.
Translated from the German by Lynne Kvinnesland.
Copyright 1999 Museum of European Art