Tree of Life


Ernst Gamperl
Dialogue with Wood

Exhibition at the
Gewerbemuseum Winterthur
26 May – 3rd November 2019

This project is all about the biggest tree that has ever found its way into my hands… a once-in-a-lifetime event.

If you were to go off in search of a tree this size, you would never be able to find one. Nobody wanted to take on this enormous tree – it was just too colossal for standardised work sequences and it was a challenge in every respect, even for me, to find an artistic balance between creating well-proportioned vessels and finding a new dimension without succumbing to vastness, on either a mental or a physical level.

And it was oak, too – my favourite wood. The tree had been standing for about 230 years before it was uprooted by a storm about three years ago, destroying the roof and first floor of a house in the process. Luckily, there were no casualties.

Due to its immense proportions, the tree had to be salvaged with heavy-duty cranes, causing quite a stir of excitement throughout the surrounding area.

A friend of mine who lived nearby drew my attention to the tree. I wasted no time getting in touch with the forestry administration and the people responsible. At 3 metres long, the butt log alone weighed 10 tonnes with the second, equally long section, coming in at 14 tonnes. The maximum diameter was as much as 2.70 m. I was both delighted and uneasy, but I bought the tree anyway and got straight down to planning, inspired by the idea of giving the tree a whole new life.

Over the last two years, my workshop has been completely modified – even expanded – and converted to accommodate works on a new scale. And new lathes have been constructed and honed with a great outlay of labour and expense. We worked intensively in every conceivable way to prepare ourselves for the arrival of this giant – and not just in practical terms.

This was also an exceedingly important time for me to find the right attitude, to train and refine my visual intuition so that I could recognise the vessels that were already contained in the tree as soon as I cut into it.

As transportation was initially out of the question for a tree of this weight and size, the first cuts were made on the spot. We managed to get two truckloads safely home and the first works have now been completed – the wood is fantastic to lathe and curves wonderfully – we have been rewarded for our pains in every respect. I am not ready to show the work yet. I’d like to have completely transformed the tree into vessels first, and then it can make its big appearance.

Special edition

A limited special edition comprising 30 exclusive and unique objects from the “Tree of Life” were be on sale during the “Ernst Gamperl – Dialogue with Wood” exhibition at the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur.

We want to thank all those who have supported the realization of the book “Ernst Gamperl – Zwiesprache” (Ernst Gamperl – Dialogues) by buying an object of the limited edition!

Books can be ordered by email.