Livia Kubach 1966 born in Bad Münster am Stein. daughter of the artist couple Kubach-Wilmsen. 1987 - 1994 studied sculpture at the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf with Tony Cragg and Günther Uecker. Master student of Günther Uecker. Michael Kropp 1960 born in Cologne. 1986 - 1991 studied social education at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne (diploma), musician (guitar, harmonica, drums, percussion), self-taught as a visual artist. The artist couple lives and works in Bad Kreuznach since 1992. For Kubach and Kropp, stone is more than just a material, it is a living medium millions of years old, which the artists treat with appropriate respect and empathy and transform into independent works of art which are often movable and go to the limits of what is possible. What is unique is that they can be "played". They sound when touched or moved and make "stone music“.
We wanted to get a deeper insight into sources of inspiration and working methods and asked some questions:
What is your background?
Livia: I grew up in an artist family and was always surrounded by art. My parents supported and encouraged us 4 children very much.
It was a big self-conception: art and „being an artist“ was the normal thing for us. In contrast, the lives of others, the „non-artists“, were special to us. Of course, we children worked together in our parents´ studio and realized our ideas.
Michael: In art, I´m a career changer. I have completed two apprenticeships in crafts and pedagogical studies and have always worked as a musician. The birth of our first daughter brought me to sculpture. I often asked myself: how does the new come into the world? How do you make something permanent? My joy in designing was and is so great that I have made it my profession.
What meaning does your work have for you and what do you appreciate about it?
Livia: What I like about my work is that every day I have the freedom to do what I want to create. With all other professions I associate the idea that I am bound by certain rules. Rules like: getting up early and doing a certain amount of work for others. As an artist I have the freedom to act as spontaneously as I feel every day. It strengthens me that I can live „my own“.
Michael: Working with art is not work for me. It has inspired me for so long, spurred me on and still remains special. My work processes on the stone often take me into another reality. The machines are running, and I hear the progress of the work. I do not like to be disturbed at work. If someone comes and wants something from me, he tears me completely out of my thing and my own world. And if I´m ripped out of it, it´s over.
How do you perceive the material stone?
Livia: Our „material“ is living matter, concentrated energy in the sense of a body. A stone is a symbol of imperishability. Although it dies constantly, weathers, decomposes and changes, it is never completely dead, on the contrary - it lives. It is so unimaginably old and changes very little over time. Stone always has a strong impact on us humans and as artists we work with it, so to speak.
How does your work process differ from others?
Livia: We work a lot with core drilling, which is often our design feature. With core drilling, the inside of the stone remains in the form of a column. These holes and columns form our sculptures, for example in the „Säuleninseln – column islands“ and „Klanginseln – sound islands“ they stand loosely in the artwork and let the sculpture sound. When the columns are reassembled, they create new forms, such as the „Steintropfen – stone drops“ or the „Steine für die Geborgenheit – stones for comfort“, which have never been seen before.
You´re an artist couple - what´s that like?
Livia: It´s very special to work as an artist couple and to be able to express and show my female point of view so strongly.
Our collaboration permeates all areas of life and allows for extended experiences, that both the female and the male expression is represented in the sculpture.
I believe that women are more „inside“, more reserved and subtle. Classical stone sculpture was male-dominated and was physically performed with great effort in a male team. Men spent themselves, so to speak, on the outer form of the material while „pounding stones“ and women had no chance to express themselves in stone.
Today women have this chance and today the realization is growing that this unseen female perspective is missing. This is the only way I can explain the new success of women especially in sculpture.
As a couple, the motto for me is simply: 4 eyes see more than two.
Michael: An important part of our work is that we do it together: Sculpting as a team with a man and a woman. On the one hand, there are the work processes, which are perhaps easier because I have the strength to do them. On the other hand, the joint effort to design the stone is enormously important. It is a long and constructive process, in which we also argue and argue to find the better result. We always amaze the viewer with the fact that our sculptures are conceived and executed by two people.
What does art give you?
Livia: In art I can concentrate completely on what I want to express and work on. Art gives me the opportunity to express myself.
How do you go about your work?
Livia: On the one hand, there is the commissioned work in art, where we are given very clear guidelines as to what someone wants or what is necessary, for example for „Kunst am Bau“. With such commissions we have to stick exactly to the specifications and force the stone to a certain degree.
On the other hand, there is the completely free work. In this case I find a stone and immediately recognize what can become of it.
When I meet a stone and get a taste in my mouth, I immediately know that something special can come out of it. This means that when I meet a stone my senses have to react. The stone must cast a spell over me. Everything else follows. The hard and heavy work becomes very easy when I am fascinated by the stone.
Michael: To work with stones you need structure. The stone presents itself to me not as an opponent, but as a player. When I recognize what is hidden in the stone, it helps me. If I try to force something on it, I run the risk of losing it. It is matter, not just material. If I do not recognize what is inside the stone, I have little chance to make great art out of it.
What instruments and tools do you work with?
Livia: We work a lot with hard stone: granites and quartzes, which due to their hardness can only be worked with even harder stone: diamonds.
A hammer and chisel can hardly do anything about it, on the contrary, this old-fashioned way of working seems to me like a spiral of violence with visible „traces of maltreatment“.
We like to work „minimally invasive“, almost „invisible“ with precise diamond tools and supported by water. The water cools the diamond as it carefully saws or grinds itself into the stone. Thus, the stone does not experience deep injuries, but we „peel“ it, so to speak. This is a very slow, almost tender process. A difficult work, where I have to use a lot of feeling, because the diamond can get hot quickly on hard stone.
How does your art differ from that of other stone sculptors?
Livia: Our sculptures are often mobile and with their mobility they sound. You can „play“ on them, they make music: stone music.
The core drillings open the stone to the light: light-flooded structures are created, matter and antimatter meet in the sculptures.
Michael: We often surprise the viewer with the kinetics or the sound of our sculptures. The typical deep and harmonious sound of granite is something very special. We consciously seek and work out these sounds, for example, in the „Steine für die Stille – stones for silence“ or the „Klanghäuser – sound houses“. In addition, we try to grasp the stone holistically. Our sculptures should be perceived with all senses.
What do you want to achieve with your works?
Livia: The viewer should be moved. No matter if it is because of the sound, the play of light or the form. A stone may also appear „unfinished“ and show its naturally broken, weathered surface and show itself in its original natural form, as for example in the „Augensteinen – eye stones“.
With my design I want to transform the stone into its best version, I want the viewer to love it as much as I do.
Michael: Yes, for us it is especially important to reach the viewer. The following metaphor sums it up: feeling the surface is easy, touching is art.
Last but not least...
The result, the finished work of art, makes us especially happy when we have touched the viewer. This is the greatest joy for us.