Stephan Balkenhol is the premier spirit behind the revival of figurative sculpture in the early 1980s. He began making his trademark figurative sculptures in response to the abstract, minimalist and conceptual strategies of the Hamburg Academy of Fine Arts, on a heritage that ranges from early Christian sculpture to Modernism. Stephan Balkenhol's work is characterised by his colourfully painted and roughly hewn wooden sculptures and reliefs. Balkenhol's motifs are larger-than-life or dwarflike men, women and animals, heads and hybrid figures of humans and animals sculpted from huge tree trunks. The same tree trunks also serve as the plinths, which are inseparably joined to the figure.
Marks made by the tools, grooves, fissures and cracks remain visible, testifying to the working process. This does not preclude a strong sense of realism, reinforced by the treatment of contours, the pose of the figures and the way they are painted.