They stand full height with outstretched wings, to a backdrop of dark mountains, heavy clouds, or they float with a gossamer lightness from sturdy tree branches. When flooded with light they burst into an extravagance of white transparency. These imposing horse sculptures are the work of Stefanie Speermann www.speermann-arts.de expressing both her artistic ability and her love of the horse.
I first met Steffi years back when she came to our polo club Landsberg-Ammersee. Steffi, who'd ridden all her life, soon took to the sport – a natural progression for a keen rider. We played lots of fun chukkers together and had an unforgettable trip to Hungary, playing at the Kali Lovaspolo Klub with György Dvoracsek and friends, enjoying Hungarian hospitality and the gentle countryside around the Balaton Lake.
At that stage I wasn't aware that Steffi had studied art at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, developing a preference for sculpture. We were just polo buddies. Eventually, in a visit to the family home, the Seidlvilla Riedwies, Murnau, I was introduced to Steffi the artist. The strength and size of her work, be it painting or sculpture, was awe inspiring; the horse, as an almost mystical motive, ever-present.
For a few years, Steffi and I lost touch as she travelled, lived and developed her art in both the Dominican Republic and the south of France. But in 2017 she returned to Murnau, where she and her two daughters now live in the rambling family home with her parents, both music professors. The villa is full of Steffi's work, paintings and sculptures, and regularly full of guests, musicians, artists and art-lovers. I'd enjoyed many a concert and exhibition there, but, on a late autumn afternoon, I drove across to Murnau to spend some quiet time with Steffi, keen to find out more about this woman who's own fragile beauty is reflected in her delicate, mystical horse sculptures.
Why is the horse a recurring theme throughout your work, Steffi?
Well, I grew up with horses and can't imagine a life without them. So naturally,
they are a big part of my art. The horse is a large, strong, muscular animal, but my challenge is to express their lightness of movement, their elegance, in my sculptures. I'm helped here by using constructional steel and wire mesh as my work materials.
My dreams are always of riding or flying with horses, of being free. I've tried a lot of themes but my favourite will always be Pegasus, the snow white winged horse. Wanting to escape the earth's heaviness Pegasus symbolises the lightness we dream of having, enabling us to lift up and fly away.
But horses are also in your portraits.
Yes, again they represent that dream of being free. With my portraits I want to open a door for the viewer to go through, to discover or confront his/her feelings, a door to discover dreams. The portraits concentrate on showing the expressions and emotions of my subjects, catching a moment - happiness, sadness, melancholy – from which you can read their life history. The eyes are the most important feature. If I can get them right, I can get a successful painting.
You have two daughters. Do they share your love of horses and art?
They love to see our horses grazing in the park. They enjoy being around them, but haven't yet expressed a great desire to ride them. They do, however, paint all the time and both have an incredible ability for fantasy.
One last question, Steffi, from one former polo player to another. Are you still keen on polo?
Oh I would LOVE to still be playing polo. I have great memories of our polo days and I still try to visit polo tournaments. But I have no time to play the game and barely enough to ride. When I do ride, it's always special, always enjoyable.
Steffi, thank you so much for giving me your time today.
It's been a pleasure, Jan.