January 31, 2005

in Köln for the weekend

Arrived today in Köln for the weekend: Around the airport it is white with snow and driving through the woodlands surrounding the centre is reminiscent of a Brueghel painting. The City itself is warmer and not so wintery.

Ulrich Rückriem is on better form than I can remember seeing him. He has resurfaced from the recent crises that hit him one after another over the last 5 years and the last surgery arising from the near-fatal car crash in Spain last year; suddenly he is positive and energised. The material for a new book gathered on one table in the studio, a large project for a Swiss pharmaceutical company in Sardinia spread along one whole wall, other projects and papers spread on other tables, pictures, drawings and diagrams, faxes and orders everywhere. What could be more invigorating than sitting in the studio of one of German’s leading sculptors writing while he works, accompanied by Mozart piano music and the distant bells of Köln Cathedral? Every now and then he brings out a new work either just completed or about to be installed.

On another day we went to Köln University to photograph Ulrich’s latest piece recently installed there. It is a single standing stone about 8 metres high of elongated proportions. There is a split (quite subtle) half way up and then the top half is split again in half. It is the same Porrino Rosa stone as the ones installed in Bury. The site is an unnatural amphitheatre of concrete 70’s academy buildings which must have been desperately bleak until the stone arrived; now, on a cold frozen morning, reflecting pink in the winter sunlight, it’s as if it radiated from its centre with measured tranquillity and beauty. Ulrich said that at the unveiling ceremony he said that he had done the commission not because the site was a good one but because it was a bad one.

After a midday visit to the city centre, which he usually avoids nowadays, we returned to work in the studio. He asked me to write more for the new retrospective publication he is planning (he has had 22 exhibitions worldwide in ten years since the last compendium).

In response to Ulrich’s 1979 piece ‘four steps’, Sol leWitt gave him his own four step coloured wall painting, a photo of which Ulrich showed me, saying if I could find a wall for it to be installed on he would donate it to Bury.

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