Gallery Visit: Ernst Gamperl

At Houghton Hall, Norfolk, until 25 September
3 August, 2022
Ernst Gamperl installation in the Stone Hall Houghton Hall
Ernst Gamperl installation in the Stone Hall Houghton Hall
It was a generous gift. For a master of his craft sourcing wood from a sustainable source can be a nuanced process. Gamperl uses timber that has been felled for reasons that coincide with his need for raw material. The wood he works with tends to come from trees at the end of their life, fallen as a result of wind damage or that have to be taken down for reasons of conservation. He prefers to work with wood that has a Northern European heritage, beech, yew, olive, ash, or as in this case, oak to make hand-turned freestanding vessels.

Gamperl's work has attracted quite a following and is exhibited internationally. The commissioned vessels, the outcome of Ernst Gamperl's labours, were always intended to be seen this year, as the Houghton Hall Estate celebrated its three hundredth anniversary. It is appropriate that what he has made, twenty highly individual hand-turned vessels made from the trunk and branches of the oak tree are displayed on the floor of the Stone Hall, the centerpiece of this historic house.

It is hard to believe that these beautiful objects are made of wood, they look fluid. The wood through Gamperl's turning process has revealed a grain that looks more like that of a woven basket, a textured papier-mâché or macramé. He works with unseasoned wood, it is still quite green as a material, and moving quite a bit as it dries during the course of his production process. The drying process opens up fissures and reveals knots and burrs, which he responds to, either re-joining with delicately made keys or leaving cracks open to add to the level of incident on the surface.

The oak tree would have been a sappling or a young tree when the foundation stones of the house were positioned. Therefore these vessels are an apposite celebration of the intervening three hundred year period, between the young tree growing into a mature oak, its life as a microcosm for insects and birds and fungi, its gradual demise, and recent transformation into Gamperl's hand-fashioned sculpture.

Ernst Gamperl's work is on display at Houghton Hall, Norfolk until Sunday 25th September 2022. Check the Houghton Hall website for tickets and opening times. The work is installed in the house, this incurs an additional charge on top of access to the estate.

Gamperl's work features in international museum collections. These include The V&A Museum, Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, and The Issey Miyake Foundation. The installation has been organised at Houghton Hall, courtesy: Anthony Slayter-Ralph, Hudson, New York and Gallery LVS, Seoul, South Korea.

About the author

Paul Barratt, Director and Curator at Contemporary and Country

Paul Barratt

Paul Barratt started working in contemporary art galleries in 1989, having graduated in Fine Art from Goldmsith’s, London University. He initially worked at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, one of the contemporary art dealers, who dominated the London art market in the 80s and 90s. He was approached by the Lisson Gallery to be gallery manager for the influential art dealer Nicholas Logsdail. This was followed by a short period in New York at Gladstone Gallery, to work for visionary art dealer Barbara Gladstone, working with the artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney.


On his return to London, Paul secured a place on the postgraduate curatorial course at the Royal College of Art, to complete an MA. After graduation in 2001, he worked as an independent curator on several projects in Oslo, London, Brighton and Basel, before joining Paul Vater at his design agency Sugarfree in 2004. He has worked with Paul ever since.