de | en


Clay is a marvellous material. It is soft, ductile, and can be transformed into all possible shapes and forms. Clay is earth and thus one of the first materials man utilised to make not only objects for daily use, but also for artistic expression. Clay though is also a product of four elements: earth and water as its basic formula, air for drying, and fire to make it hard and durable. The essential metamorphosis takes place in fire; in its great heat only what has been made correctly remains whole, anything inferior shatters. Ultimately, any imaginative shaping of the soft clay demands very exact knowledge of the quality of the material, of the required thickness of the walls, of dangerous breaking points. Maximum dexterity is demanded of the sculptor’s fingers; only then will the product be flawless.

The materials of nature are not unfamiliar to Margot Stöckl. Born into a joiner family in Gerlos in an area at the back of the Ziller Valley in Tirol, she grew up with wood, completed a joinery apprenticeship and attended the Higher Technical School for Arts and Crafts in Innsbruck. Her marriage into a hotelier family in Stumm in the Ziller Valley, however, soon demanded all her time and energy for daily operation; solely in the reorganisation and redesigning of the rooms of the hotel and restaurant was she able to act out her enjoyment of creative designing. But then at some time the point was reached when it was enough and the time ripe to devote herself entirely to art, designing, ideas and her own abilities.

A workshop in an old farmhouse was remodelled and her first exercises involving fingers and notions were developed using wood, that so familiar material, and stones; in the end, though, these were dissatisfying. It wasn’t until a block of clay from an acquaintance brought about the turning point - and provided the medium that conformed in such a congenial manner to the inclinations and notions of Margot Stöckl. And the material found its master in a person who, without previous knowledge, without courses, understood the properties of clay and knew how to savour its potential and respect its limits.

It is striking that, from the very beginning, heads are created that are very vividly formed and of considerable size. It is certainly not the simplest form with which to familiarise oneself with clay, as it requires a complicated, mirror-inverted shaping of the inner side of the hollow space to ensure its coming out of the firing process undamaged. Nevertheless, the artist makes the clay compliant with a feeling of certainty, challenges it by drawing deep furrows in the smooth surface – analogies to the rough rock formations of her homeland. Light and shadows are caught in these valleys as living actors of art.

Margot Stöckl is a being of nature, receiving from it her most important inspirations. She takes long walks in the forest every day, with open senses for the many things of beauty within it as well as the partly bizarre shapes of roots, branches, cliffs and the broad variety of things thrown away by others as refuse: that can be an old iron pipe that has gotten its special patina from water and is recycled as a pedestal. Or it can also be the most diverse iron parts, such as scythes, shovels and sickles that once were used to perform important functions in rural everyday life. While now disassociated from their original purpose, they possess their own aesthetics of the handicraft and the material. Margot Stöckl combines them with her ceramic figures - as head ornaments, pendants, thorns, borders. But they can be removed, a variable that imparts the face a changing expression and meaning.

Meaning is a keyword that the artist deals with cautiously. She doesn’t want to anticipate too much, wants to have the heads “speak for themselves”, and thus selects names that leave a bit of leeway. Various groups originate: „The Intellectual“, “The Visionary”, “The Duffer” and “The Penitent” emphasise what is humanly typical; “Centurio”, “Iroquois” and “The Aztec” the artist expresses her fascination for the specific characteristics of ethnic groups. “John” and “Satan” are modern interpretations of religious iconography. The heads become mirror images of life moulded by culture, fate and perception.

So formed, the second metamorphosis begins. The completely fired, untreated clay could not fulfil expectations, demanded further composition.
In an elaborate process and in close collaboration with the Krismer Foundry in Telfs – one of whose “customers” is Bruno Gironcoli – a wax model is fabricated that is first immersed in a ceramic bath, then a sand bath. Subsequently, aluminium, brass and sometimes also bronze is poured into its resulting hollow space. The light brown earthy surface of the clay is transformed into a gleaming silvery to golden skin – earth is refined to metal. If one thinks of the golden face masks of the dead in the cult of earlier peoples, then a kind of mystification takes place here as well. The added “objets trouvés” are usually emphasised in brass, connected and yet separate.

Margot Stöckl’s sculptures can stand anywhere; they radiate quiescence and attract attention. Last but not least, she also makes pedestals out of especially felled oak and poplar from the vicinity of Stams in Tirol.

Nothing is left to chance – except for the effect of the fire.

Marianne Hussl-Hörmann