My interest in sculpture was initiated by an exhibition on iron- and steel-sculptures in Stuttgart 1970. Since 1988 I form collages from pieces of used steel and sometimes other materials. I find the material everywhere from farms, harbor locations, in the street, in scrap yards (“a cosmos of forms”) and by the railway track, and in antiquities shops. The process of finding and the decision to take a piece with me is a creative act. Sometimes a long process of trial and error will follow to combine the appropriate pieces. Often it is not easy to find partners. I combine mostly 2 to 5 individual parts and I am astonished that some artists handle more. After weeks, if the loosely combined pieces satisfy my eyes, I join them by welding. Then, I work down the rusty surface layer with files, brushes and sandpaper until they look perfect to me. Thereafter, I fix the surface with a mixture of terpentine and lineseed oil. Besides a limitation in the number of joined pieces, very often I obey a certain size; pocket-format being optimal. The above sculptures are 13 – 28 cm high. The finished sculptures have to show both: harmony and secret. The viewer should not have a definite idea and imagination when he looks at them. The title of the objects are not essential for understanding; sometimes they point to a place where I have found a part. If a finished object does not fit my “visual imagination”, I take it apart and start with another combination.

The process of creation may be summarized as: Finding – combining – fixing – surface treatment. Positioning is also very important; the sculptures need an undisturbed background. My “teachers” in a theoretical sense were David Smith , Eduardo Chillida, Anthony Caro and especially Ettore Colla . I learnt a sensibility for surfaces by the prints of Armin Sandig .

For some works I used other materials. These works very much tend to pursue a specific idea.


“The Evolutions of Swallows”
100x70 cm
“Last Swallows”
100x70 cm

”Children and Ships”; length of a ship 60 cm

84 children from the Kindergarten of my village folded 84 paperships (60 cm long) and printed their name on both sides of the ship. Thus every ship is symbolizing a child. The ships were positioned in a loose order and going about into the same direction on a meadow (no lake is near the village). If you see such a group of ship and the names on them you ask immediately what will be their fates?

My sculptures have been commented by Rudolf Jüdes , former director of the Kunstverein Hannover: “…Karl Poralla found and collected used pieces of steel and puzzled them together to obtain form-collages. In recent years, he developed small steel sculptures of uncomparable compactness, non-figurative sobriety and tectonic poetry. The sculptures are in the smallest format nevertheless, monumental, simultaneously also like music, like birdsong or triad.

” Literature: Karl Poralla, Plastiken; mit Gedichten von Kay Borowsky; ISBN 3-9802434-7-8, Breitenholzer Igel-Verlag, 1992

Further examples of sculptures:


When I saw for the first time works of Ian Hamilton Finlay in about 1985 in a book of Yves Abrioux I was highly impressed by the appropiate setting of inscribed stones in gardens and nature. Since that time I often missed inscribed stones in nature. However, it is very difficult to invent a good inscription and it wasn´t until 1990 that I made my first inscription. I learnt from Finlay to work out the inscriptions in cooperation with stone masons who are experienced in creating gravestones . Most stones are located in my garden. My first work, DIE WEISSE ROSE, is located in the New Botanical Garden of the University of Tübingen. Most inscriptions are influenced by aspects of science, history and philosophy which will be barely found in the works other artists.

In contrast to my steel collages, the inscriptions tend to pursue a definite idea and concept.

Three out of a set of 10 stones with the word time in 10 languages

Further Examples:

Inscription "GIVERNY"; 20 x 67 cm In memory of the garden of Claude Monet

"DIE WEISSE ROSE" ("THE WHITE ROSE"); three stones 2.7 m long. This memorial remembers the student group "Weiße Rose" fighting against Hitler

"Ash to Honey"; diameter 36 cm
"Secret"; 28x28 cm

Schematic representation of most inscriptions: