THE SCULPTURAL OEUVRE
Joachim Dunkel saw himself first and foremost as a sculptor. In modeling or firing clay, plaster or wax, he built his own world of human and animal figures, a counterworld of mixed creatures, chimeras, groups of figures, pieces of ruins, and an overworld of stars, clouds, fog fronts. The central area of his sculptural oeuvre, however, is the female figure. He worked on this core theme continuously and throughout his life; in terms of its importance and number of pieces, the single female figure (from 15 to 220 cm high) with its subtly varied postures and torsos surpasses all other representations.
Next to the all-visible sculpture, the relief appeared as a narrative form of expression of darkness. Starting from the vertical relief in the 1960s, the artist came to the site via the recumbent relief, be it as the skull site Golgotha (especially in the 1970/80s) or as the mountain of ruins, finally as the battlefield Troy in the late 1990s in view of the bloody Balkan crisis. Regardless of material and dimension, the sculptor increasingly structured the surface of his works since the 1980s through graphic incisions and rounding. The transition of the three states - fully plastic, semi-plastic, surface-structured - within the object denotes a dynamic principle that is inherently alien to sculpture: movement radiating in all directions.
Not infrequently Joachim Dunkel emphasized details on his figures, the plasters as well as the bronzes and terracottas, by painting them. Although this is a border crossing of the plastic in the direction of illusion, it becomes all the more clear that this illusion does not occur, nor is it intended to be achieved. Only the imaginary armor around the figure becomes more solid through the tinting.
The large bronzes of Joachim Dunkel vary in height between 275 and almost 500 cm. In the richly differentiated structures of different themes, the motif of the stars recurs, as it were, as a distinctive mark, hidden, indicated only as a barely segmented disc of the crescent moon, as a sun round or fully plastic as a star.
The up to nearly 250cm high ensembles, for example in terracotta (children's playground) or in cast aluminum (Charlottenburg Palace), follow the local conditions and the specifications of the client.
Figure and portrait
Joachim Dunkel loved the statuette format, that size which does not aim at overwhelming from a distance, but at the detailed, the very personal, private observation at close range. In fact, the small bronze was never conceived by the artist as a preliminary study or as the first step towards a larger format. Even the life-size figures show the intimacy of the small sculpture.
A decisive feature of Dunkel's world of figures is their compelling creatureliness. Almost without exception, women and men appear in their nakedness and sexuality without any costuming. In this way they gain originality and vitality, although their bodies are not conceived as organons, are not bodily functional, but are more or less torsos. Individual features are sublimated to the human figure. This, however, does not allow us a feeling of "we"; on the contrary, irritating strangeness and distance evoke the impression of untouchability.
Dunkel sometimes supplemented the torsoed figures of the late years with surface forms cut from paper, cardboard, or sheet metal in order to counteract their physical presence with surprising access. The artist certainly wanted the sensual radiance of the bodies he modeled - but at the same time always an idol-like seeming unfamiliarity and reverie.
Over a period of about 50 years, 45 portraits, 10 self-portraits and various posthumous heads were created. In their attachment to the ephemeral drawing, which nevertheless does not flee but rather attacks, even touches, these sculptural portraits are not suitable for a pantheon, a Valhalla or a gallery of honorary citizens. Dunkels works are sublime statements about the counterpart, who appears without data protection, without the armor of his outer skin, as a vulnerable, but also self-injuring individual.
Motive and object
Joachim Dunkel took up three motifs from the narrative world of ancient mythology: the Troy complex from the judgment of Paris to the battlefield; metamorphosis as a combination of human, animal, and plant forms; the realm of the gods and the dead. He depicted the motifs free of archaeological obligations; the three women of the Paris judgment, for example, are not recognizable as goddesses by any attribute, by any pathos formula of their gestures.
In addition to the apocalyptic horsemen, Dunkel has repeatedly re-circled and re-designed two motifs from biblical tradition: the story of the first human couple and the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. None of the works in this field was created as a commissioned work. It is explicitly not about an illustration of theological contexts; it is only the momentous, monstrous event that is captured in ever new, multi-figure constellations.
Throughout his life, the sculptor devoted himself with preference to the horse and the unity of horse and rider. His horses never stand in a resting position. Rather, the special aspect of beauty is depicted, which can lie in concentrated, strenuous, laborious movement.
Works in firing clay were always sporadic. Between 1966 and 1968 six, 1976 and 1982 two dogs each, all belonging to a "breed" (about 25x35cm). In the period from 1978 to 1990, each time at Christmas time, a nativity scene grew to over 100 pieces, the figures max. 20cm high. In the years 1981-83 Joachim Dunkel built ten so-called pocket parks, ruins similar to temples or castles, which he imagined covered with suitable plants, including two "Arcadia", which can also be used as aquariums.
In 1990 the artist realized five up to 100cm high fantasy animals for the playground of a small kindergarten. Another six pedestal animals, about 50cm high, date from 1990 and 1995. Dunkel supplemented his works on the Troy complex in 1999 in terracotta with two female figures, a singing horse and a falling rider. These sculptures are in extraordinarily extreme motion.
Parallel to the aforementioned works, small-format female figures were created. The terracotta is either reddish engobed, washed with ink or painted in color, only one of the large dogs carries a glaze.