Article by Mike Stice from the Laguna Art Museum. Above portrait by Scott Soens.
If it was up to Wolfgang Bloch, what you are reading would be printed on post-consumer waste recycled and process chlorine free (PCW and PCF) matte paper. Not just because no trees are cut down in the making of such paper, but also because it feels good to the touch and, strangely, despite how far removed it is from its mother the tree, looks like something closer to nature than its over-industrialized, glossy cousin. Eliminating the offensive sheen of industry is not just one of Wolfgang's talents; it is also one of his gifts… to us.
In the presence of any of Wolfgang's work, his talent is pronounced and right there at the surface for all to see. His gifts, however, are much more subtle and concealed.
Born forty-three years ago in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, Bloch speaks today with an acute immediacy of (and a fond longing for) his childhood steeped in the rich and impassioned essence of Latin American culture. "I remember the feeling I would get when I stepped into one of [Guayaquil's] great old cathedrals. You know, I'm more spiritual than I am religious, but it was that feeling that just made me want to bow my head." This awe for sacred places is integral to both his talent and his gifts, as his works both stem from and arouse a hushed reverence.
At the age of twelve, Bloch and his friends discovered the joy of surfing and, along with it, another place that would serve as a perennial source of sanctity and inspiration: the ocean and its environs. Sky, water, and earth are the elements common to every session a surfer enjoys and, as such, are the primary elements depicted in Bloch's art. It's understandable why, when asked who some of his greatest artistic influences are, he answers, "I'm inspired not by art as much as I am by life."
After enjoying a decade of well-noted commercial success - first as an art director for Gotcha Sportswear, later as a freelance artist/designer for such major companies as Quiksilver, Billabong, Roxy, Rusty, Rip Curl, O'Neill, Vans, Jeep, Indian Motorcycles, and many others - Bloch's life today is dedicated to painting. More accurately, his knack for seeing the inherent beauty in the most basic and often unnoticed sights common to surfers, combined with his studied understanding of light, form, and space, is now focused on making transparent (and transcendent) his rare vision. This is his talent.
In his sparing portrayals, executed with an economy of visual content and with a wealth of materials we often discount as profane, Bloch manages to pay homage not just to the ocean's mysterious grandeur but also to these simple discarded materials. With the artist's great intention, plywood, scrap metal, fiberglass, and resin somehow defy their designations as crude materials and, when viewed as a part of the whole, are again elevated to objects as venerable as a tree.
A visit to Bloch's website (www.wolfgangbloch.com) provides further evidence of the artist's less-is-more philosophy and reveals more examples of his nostalgia for bygone eras and how recycling and bringing to the forefront such forgotten objects of the past may result in a sublime awareness of the present. His entire website is constructed around a discarded Hallicrafter broadcast receiver that Bloch discovered years ago. "I always knew that I would do something with it. It's really a beautiful piece of equipment. When I started thinking about designing my website, there it was."
If it was up to Wolfgang Bloch, we would all spend a few moments discovering forgotten aspects of our nature and become more aware of the consequences of our often hurried and thoughtless actions. The truth is, standing in front of one of Wolfgang's unhurried and thoughtful works, there's a good chance that after you've acknowledged his artistic prowess, you'll soon begin to feel something greater. It's not unlikely that you'll experience the same feeling Wolfgang used to feel when he stepped inside of one of Guayaquil's great old cathedrals. If you allow yourself to stand there a while, you might even feel the urge to bow your head and remember that life's greatest gifts are its simplest pleasures. This is his gift to us.