The artist Jo Kley was born in Ulm in 1964. In 1981 he completed an apprenticeship as a stonemason and stone sculptor in his hometown. From 1991 to 1997 he studied fine arts and sculpture (MA) at the Muthesius School of Fine Arts in Kiel under Professor Jan Koblasa. 2012 Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA) at the University of Pécs in Hungary under Professor Colin Foster. Jo Kley has been a freelance artist since 1995. As a participant, organizer and curator, he has participated in numerous sculpture symposia at home and abroad and has been present at numerous exhibitions. Around 100 of his monumental sculptures are in public space in Germany and 20 other countries from the Far East to Europe and North and South America. In 1998 he launched the art concept 'KleyCity', which presents monumental tower sculptures in 24 countries to date. In 2003 he was Artist-in-Residence, City of Uto, Japan. Jo Kley lives in Kiel, his studio is located in a former gravel pit.
We wanted to get a deeper insight into sources of inspiration and working methods and asked some questions:
When did you start working as an artist?
For me, working as an artist actually began during my studies. As an art student I took part in various exhibitions and drew attention to myself. One day I was invited to an art in architecture competition. All the other participants were already real artists - professionals! - I, the student, won the competition and got the order! That was a turning point for me - from then on I wanted to live as a sculptor. And so I have been a freelance artist since 1995.
Who and what inspires you?
Inspiration and where it comes from is a secret. It´s probably a mixture of everything. It´s always a mystery to me how new ideas come into being.
But most of all I find inspiration in old walls of all kinds - in medieval churches as well as in pharaonic temples or even in stone-age caves. In the art of our ancestors, I always learn that abstraction is not an invention of modernity!
Even Picasso, when visiting the cave of Lascaux, is said to have said: „We haven´t learned anything“.
Which materials do you work with and why?
Stones - Whether alabaster, marble or hard stone - everything that is stone challenges me. I always look for the right shape for the respective stone material. At the same time the work includes a little geology study. I understand (literally) a piece - a piece of the earth´s history.
Are there colours and shapes that you prefer?
I love it when the stones have a dark colour - almost black and sometimes with a strong vein of colour. The shape then always depends on the natural colour play of the stones.
Do you want to say something with your art?
The reduction - the simplicity of the form should inspire the viewer.
My art should have tension, the sculptures should breathe. Form and surface should match the stone material. I want to make it tangible that it was right to give this stone this special shape and surface.
I want to charge the form, the sculpture with energy. If I succeed, then I call it "energy in form".
What are your goals?
When asked about my goals, I would say that making art is also allowed to fail.
Actually, I´m always looking for new forms and sometimes I succeed in really good ones, and I´d like to continue to realize some of them in a really big way - just like before.
Why did you start working as an artist?
As a young man I was actually far from ever working as an artist. Although I grew up with the material stone - in the family business marble stairs were built, and so I made - as expected - a stonemason apprenticeship. In fact, the first serious artistic ambitions awakened at that time. Unfortunately, the family business went insolvent during my 3 years of apprenticeship - a drama for the family! But I was free and could prepare for an art study.
Is there something or someone who influences you?
I like to travel a lot and I think that´s what influences me the most. I´m lucky that as a sculptor I can combine two passions very well - travelling and working. As a traveller, I always get new and very intense insights. And sometimes, or in retrospect, when I digest the journey at home, an inspiring intensity emerges.
Which techniques do you prefer?
My favourite part of the working techniques is in fact the handicraft. Of course, modern tools such as diamond cutters and pneumatic hammers are used - my motto here is: everything that leads to the goal is allowed! But a shape, a surface, only gets tension if it is ground by hand, without machines. This is very tedious and lengthy, but the result rewards me and I can think wonderfully and find new pictorial ideas for further sculptures.
Where do you work?
Most of the time I work in my open-air studio - this is my open-air workshop, which I set up in a former gravel pit.
What is important to you in your work?
At work it is important to me that I feel challenged again and again. I form something new and educate myself further - my skills as well as my mind.
What would you like to achieve in 5 years?
In 5 years I would like to have arrived in the art market just as I have arrived in the international sculptor symposium market for a long time. Here I have already worked in 25 countries and created over 60 large sculptures. A good and for all sides fruitful cooperation with galleries has developed for me only for a few years. Here I am looking forward to new challenges.