Jeans, long hair in a ponytail and the air of an eternal youth. Manuel Tschager looks like this: essential. Direct. Exactly like his art.
While talking about himself and his technique of sculpture, he accompanies every concept with broad hand gestures, almost as if he wanted to give the words the same vital spark that he infuses in his creations. „I come from Nova Levante and I practically lived in the woods – he starts -. I loved and still love being in contact with nature. Very deliberately, I personally go in search of the best roots to carry out my work.“ Son of Arthur Tschager, merchant and owner of the homonymous art gallery located in Via dei Portici in Bolzano, Manuel grew up observing the sculptors who worked in his father‘s workshop. „In some ways, their art has had a lasting impression on me. I remember that at the age of five I carved ducks and gnomes: I had already decided that I would dedicate my life to this profession.“ After two years of art school in Valle Aurina and another six in Val Gardena, came the decisive meeting with his mentor, the artist Giovanni Pitschiler: „In fact, I actually first met him when I was a child one summer when he worked with us. When I finished my studies, I met him again and he agreed to be my teacher. I lived at his home like the apprentices of the past and what should have been twelve months of practice turned into seven years – he reveals with a smile -. It was a crucial phase of my development and, still today, Giovanni and I are good friends, despite the 19-year difference. We have exhibited so many times together and even today we sometimes end up talking until four in the morning.“ From the religious Gothic-Baroque inspired subjects to the tapered female figures that he currently creates, Manuel‘s artistic evolution is a constant work in progress that has a very profound meaning. „Creating only religious figures did not satisfy me anymore.
I wanted to create sculptures that better reflect my feelings, so, seven years ago, I started to design these female subjects. Finding your own style is a real battle, it‘s like waiting to observe a fruit that ripens over time. Wood is the language I use to communicate who I am and my technique is how I make myself recognizable. There are artists who are content and others who, like me, want more, who want to go beyond the “norms”, who try to give an aura and a character that is always different in their works. Art must grow hand in hand with the vision of life and my sculptures are the daughters of this process. What I sculpt comes out with the same naturalness. Without forcing it.“ One of the peculiarities of these creations is the fact that the faces do not have eyes: „My intent was to provoke emotions in other ways. The eyes are the quintessence of expressiveness: through their gaze you can guess if a person is happy, angry, sad … I was interested to understand if it was possible to touch the soul of those who observe while renouncing this element, favouring other aspects. The history of every person is made of beauty, defects, fragility: concepts that are apparently in contradiction but which, in reality, best represent the indivisible union of human nature. With my women, I try to convey this sense of wholeness, of unity. „
To do this, the choice of the raw material is also fundamental and Manuel clarifies his preference for Swiss pine: „It is found starting from 1800-2000 m of altitude. The thing that fascinates me most about this type of wood is that it has resin and knots, like a human being has blood and scars. This aspect gives character to the material and, consequently, to the work. I could carve the linden, lighter and cleaner, but in the Swiss pine I see my life … a sublime imperfection, which makes the sculpture in some way more authentic, more alive.“ Tschager, who has exhibited his work all over the world and has many admirers in the United States, also had the honour of seeing one of his Madonnas given by the late Bishop Egger to Pope Benedict XVI. Although his activity is markedly individual, Manuel is a man with a sunny character, quick wit, and likes to spend his free time devoted to his hobbies, in particular to sports. „As a boy, I played soccer and I still play some amateur games. I also like hockey but I prefer fishing. In fact, I recently went to Canada to fish with some friends. Other interests? Going out with friends: good company is essential for me.“ And how can anyone blame him?