Newbury News Ltd. Print-Digital-Social

My bank account and me – a West Berks sculptor's rocky relationship

Johannes von Stumm in lockdown ‘There's light at the end of the tunnel’

Trish Lee

trish lee


01635 886663

Johannes von Stumm

Johannes von Stumm

TWO years ago I was living with a fat and happy business account and when I looked at it, it smiled at me. I told it then that times will get tougher for us two and that we both have to kick into gear to prepare work for exhibitions in Swindon, Antwerp, Saarbrücken, Berlin and London for 2020. It agreed and so we did.

I put in some elbow grease and sculptures grew like mushrooms (no – actually more like bonsai trees). And my account got slimmer and slimmer. Every time I talked to it, it pointed at the weighing scales and started to get more and more worried. I hugged and comforted it saying that something might happen in Swindon and people in Belgium love art very much.

The wonderful French sculptor Auguste Rodin became famous in Belgium first before his home country recognised his talent. So the same might happen to me. And I pointed out that in my galleries in Germany we have always sold some of my sculptures. My business account listened carefully and cheered up a bit.

This lasted until the moment I received an email from my bronze foundry in China. A very nice and efficient young woman emailed me that she was extremely sorry, but my bronze casts for the exhibition in Antwerp would not be finished in time. Why? Because the Chinese Government had closed their factory. Why? Because a bat with a virus might have been eaten by a pangolin. The pangolin with the virus might have been eaten by a person and now the virus is happily eating away at more and more people. How strange, my wife and I thought. Such a remote incident in China stops a sculptor showing his bronze sculptures at the other end of the world. Little did we know...

With this news I turned to my account and said: “My darling, we have to do a last push. We need to produce some plastic models mirroring the missing bronzes.” The account groaned, cosied up to the bank manager and finally spat out a few more good old British pounds. Everything was lined up beside my van ready to go to Gallery Verbeeck in Antwerp when suddenly the gallery owner called and said that the virus had spread in Belgium and they would not be going ahead with the exhibition.

This call was not unexpected, but I hesitated to let my account know. It was now looking extremely pale and thin. It had hoped so much for some euro-calories. Hearing the news it was devastated and I tried to comfort it as much as I could. I told it that the British Government was considering support for self-employed artists and it cheered up a little bit. But when it saw how much it might get, it got anxious again. The next morning it said we need to talk. With a stern voice it told me to get off my bum and create other opportunities. I sulked a bit, answered back but soon realised that it was right. So what should I do?

First, I sat down and wrote to all my friends who wanted to come to my exhibitions and told them how sad I was not to see them. I included a few pictures of my art work too and one of my collectors fell in love at first sight with a sculpture and bought it straight away. My account cheered up a bit!

Then a friend came up with an idea. She said there is so much bad news everywhere and asked if I could put some images of my work on the web as a counterbalance. What a splendid idea. I made a plan for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I have been posting a picture every day. Seeing the posts, another collector of my work contacted me and enquired about a sculpture. Things were looking up for my little account.

Next I got a call from a curator who said that seeing my Immaterial Figures, like the one on the Robin Hood Roundabout in Newbury, touched her so much that she would like to organise a big exhibition of my work.

There is light at the end of the tunnel even if it is quite some distance away. I can assure the reader that my business account is out of intensive care and it seems to be recovering slowly.
In the meantime I am working my socks off day and night to find as many euro and sterling calories as possible to make it smile again.

Johannes von Stumm is an internationally renowned sculptor whose unique combination of three different materials has attracted public and critical acclaimin numerous successful exhibitions, both in the UK and abroad. His choice of media and instinct for experimentation is deeply rooted in his background, in a childhood and adolescence spent at the foot of the Alps with long winters, ice and rocks, and he has worked for the last 25 years from his studio at South Fawley, West

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on Newbury Weekly News

Characters left: 1000