The Garden of Poetry, Sculptures by Wolfgang Sandt at the Villa Aganoor Pompilj at Monte del Lago

Wolfgang Sandt, a contemporary stone sculptor from Bavaria, and Vittoria Aganoor, an Italian poetess of Armenian origin from the 19th century, both inspired by the beauty of Lake Trasimeno, meet in the “Garden of Poetry” at the Villa Aganoor Pompilj in Monte del Lago sul Trasimeno. Although these artists of different eras have worked in entirely different mediums, they have many things in common.


Romantic in search word and stone

One leitmotif of both artists is the search: the search for harmony, perfection and the essence of things. Hence both artists follow a deeply romantic motif. The medium of Aganoor in this search was the language. She believed in the magic of words, the sovereignty of the "parola poetica," the "parola omnipossente" (omnipotent word). Writing poems meant “disclosing the almighty word from the sensitive heart”. According to her the poet is in possession of the “magic wand”, title of a poem by the German romantic Joseph von Eichendorff: "Sleeps a song in things abounding that keep dreaming to be heard: Earth'es tunes will start resounding if you find the magic word.”

Sandt’s medium is the stone: he sets out in search of the inherent secrets of the material, its inner light, its secret language.
In preparing the exhibition, he has deliberately tried not to translate the poems of Aganoor into stone. Rather he tried to embrace the inspiration of her work, her biography, her time and place, the late-Romantic period (the "fin de siecle") in Italy. He wanted to create something new, with his own language, to build a connection with our times.
While working on the sculptures, it seemed to him as if the stone spoke to him with soft, despondent words which he then tried to capture in verse. Small, restrained poems emerged from the noise of the often brutal creative process of loud machines sculpting on the hard stone.

Creating from nature

Aganoor created poetry out of romantic dreams in, with and from nature. The cosmos, nature, landscape and the dreaming poet in their interaction were the basis of the creative process: a mystical communication of the artist’s soul with nature.

Sandt works mostly with stone, a pure, clear, immobile element. He is challenged by the archaic material and tries to encounter it free of  intellectual predestination, emotional expectations or idealistic transference. Sculpting deals with the reality of the material more intensely than any other form of art. There is nothing more natural, nothing less artificial. The creative process is "instinctive”, almost unconscious. The communication between the material (nature) and the creator (art) is direct and comes from the primary process. It is dream-like and even mystical. So light marble figures grow out of dark rocks covered with mosses and lichens, as if they had risen from the unconscious of the artist. Only much later the viewer will find associations and interpretations (as in "Daughter of the North").


The Nature of Things

Aganoor investigated in her poetry  the "great mystery" of love and nature, “spreading the wings to leave the small world in order to reach the vast infinities”.
Sandt’s sculptures are lyrical works in stone, in thin, translucent marble. Despite the gravity of the material they seem to reach for the sky rather than being bound to the earth. Like “Wings” they rise up towards an unreachable horizon.
He is fascinated by the contrast between the weight of the material and the lightness of form. Works such as "Irritation", "Wind Chimes", "Jungle of thoughts" and "Waves" seem to be exempt from gravity.
Sandt’s sculptures play with the conceptual opposite of their superficial characteristics, such as the contrast between the solidity of the stone and the intangibility of the light. He succeeds in working the stone so delicately that it becomes translucent, thus literally creating “lightstones” that seem to glow from within. Out of a stone he creates a water surface flooded with light as in "Skin of the water" or "Light over the lake". It can be said, in line with Lyotard’s aesthetics of postmodernism, that in Sandt’s work the form itself alludes to something that cannot be represented (like the light).


Emigration and nostalgia

Aganoor’s life and work were interwoven. In her poetry she tried to overcome the antinomy of life and art in a kind of “poetological self-reflection”. Her experiences in life – her childhood and youth in Padua and Venice in an immigrant family, the mourning for the early deceased beloved father and the last years on Lake Trasimeno in the late port of the marriage to Guido Pompilj: All this was reflected in the various creative phases of her work. The nostalgia runs like a thread in her poetry, from the theme of a temporary exile to the desperate internal exile.

Sandt also employs the theme of nostalgia. Houses appear frequently in his work: Houses on wheels (“mobile homes”) that are ready to leave their location at any time to an unknown destination. Houses that are pending on the edge, in danger to fall into the abyss – and it may be the abyss of passion  as in "My peace is gone". Houses that can loose their supposed security unexpectedly as "The House of the soul - for Guido Pompilj”. - The concept of a never ending journey is also to be found in his boat-sculptures. For Sandt boats are symbols of man’s eternal journey, maybe also of his last journey as in "Dreaming of Trasimeno".


The vulnerability of the indestructible - late Romanticism and Postmodernism

Aganoor is a representative of the late Romantic period, her work is marked by individualism and by the refuge into the irrational. Her "sensual world" was opposed to the rational and scientific interpretation of the world in the age of positivism in the late 19th century. Especially in her later life her poems were imbued with the knowledge that the desire for security can not bear comparison with reality: Even the seemingly indestructible is vulnerable. From this insight she pronounced what could be the motto of the entire era of the "fin de siecle": "Come è stanco / il pensiero" ("How weary it is / the thought"). Yet there is also growth in decline, there is a "Tomorrow." This is the title of her last poem, which ends with "... e tutto è possibile." ("... and everything is possible").

In Sandt’s sculptures the reality of the matter, its weight is questioned. He too is opposed to positivism, to the belief in progress of our times. For him the world has no goal of progress, but  he sees it as pluralistic, random, chaotic and sometimes decrepit. Knowingly he accepts in his works the fragile, the cracks in the stone and even the shattering into fragments. At first glance, his sculptures seem clear and simple. Yet their aura is wavering and uncertain. They are destructible as the “Fragile stele”, a long, slender, elegant column with fragile spots on the verge of breaking. Over and over again he wonders about the constant variability of seemingly fixed values. His work thus reflects the existential question of the vulnerability, if not the failure, of art and of man.

Dr. Annette Greifenhagen, March 2013

Exhibition "Visioni" Galleria Gaia, Papiano, Italy

Pino Bonnano, curator and gallery owner, Galleria Gaia

"Wolfgang Sandt is a thoughtful sculptor, an accurate listener to the breathing of the matter.

He shapes the stone into totems or stelae, to achieve a spiritual dimension beyond the everyday routine.

He raises his objects into a different sphere, as if he could conjure an unreachable horizon through the inner light of the stone.

In his work there is a deep longing for transparency, for light, for the vision of a different, transcendent reality which he searches with metaphysical obstinacy.

The artist sculpts to explore the inner implications and to conquer the aesthetics of wonder.


“Wolfgang Sandt è uno scultore riflessivo, acuto ascoltatore del respiro della materia che scolpisce e plasma, elabora le sue opere con la specificità di totem o steli per acuire l’impressione di trovare una ragione spirituale oltre la dimensione temporale del quotidiano.

Le eleva come se volesse combinare le apparizioni di un orizzonte irraggiungibile con l’interna luce contenuta nella materia.

Nella sua opera scultorea c’è un insaziabile bisogno di trasparenza, di luce, visione di una realtà altra/oltre, cercate con ostinazione metafisica.

L’artista scolpisce per sondare le implicazioni interiori e per conquistare l’estetica della meraviglia.”


The vulnerability of the indestructible

The work of the sculptor Wolfgang Sandt

Wolfgang Sandt, German artist with a love for Italy, works mainly with stone but also with wood and several other materials, integrating also objéts trouvées in his sculptures. His works are as well representational as non-figurative.

For many years he has been occupying himself with the theme of fragility, questioning the importance of seemingly unchanging values and realities. One result of this research are hisfragile stelae, long, slender, elegant and always on the rim of breaking : The artist always has to go to the extremes.

Wolfgang Sandt is fascinated by the contrast of the weight of the material (stone) and the lightness of the form. He is aiming for the connection between sky and earth.

Another contrast in his work emerges from the solidity of stone and the impalbability of light. Wolfgang Sandt succeeds in working the stone so delicately that it becomes translucent, thus literally creating lightstones.

In his recent works he created a cycle of stone houses. Yet what kind of houses are these?
Houses on wheels, mobile homes, ready to leave their position at any time. Heading for an unknown destiny. Houses with points of fracture and in all kinds of precarious situations. And once again the seemingly secure is put to question, sometimes not without a wink of the eye.

Corrado Attili MA
March 2002

(Translation Dr. A. Greifenhagen)