Martin Willing was born in 1958 in Bocholt, Germany. Along with his two older siblings, Willing grew up in his family’s store, a bicycle shop where his father welded his own frames and molded his own tires. During the summers, the family would take trips throughout the German countryside on a tandem bicycle, during which his parents would explain the various towns’ cultural and architectural history; Willing still believes these trips, and the skills he observed in his father’s shop, are integral to his current art-making process. There was no true artistic activity in his family, however; his first encounter with art was at school, where his interest and talent was fostered by his teacher and local artist, Manes Schlatt. By age eleven, Willing was working with linocuts and woodcuts. To supplement his learning at school, Willing borrowed numerous art books from the local library, from which he copied paintings to further his drawing skills. By the end of his early education, Willing began to transfer these drawings into the third dimension in small clay and artificial stone sculptures.
Willing continued his artistic training at the Münster Art Academy where, interestingly, he also studied Physics. His devotion to art was solidified, however, while he prepared his first major exhibitions at the Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle in Cologne and the Neuer Berliner
Kunstverein in Berlin. This interest and knowledge of science remain in his work; the concepts and theories his learned through these studies provide the base for much of his artistic process. His earliest works very much reflected the experimental methods of physics, exploring materials, kinetic movement, and other similar properties that often resulted in works of long, thin wires and rods that stretched out into the space around them. Most recently, Willing uses specialist technologies such as the high-powered water jet or laser cutters, to create more refined and complex works that ultimately split into two categories, “kinetic” and “concrete” art. Willing continues to create new and dynamic sculptures, and is ever evolving and redefining his processes to create what has become a highly diverse and technically rigorous body of work. (2)
1. Sasa Hanten, Martin Willing: Eigenvalue (Cologne: Heubeck AG, 2010.), 50.
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