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Text: Gertraud Kamml, BA

Franziska and Mercedes Welte. The Making of NONOS

The Welte sisters produce three-dimensional, gracefully feminine sculptures out of steel, carbon, epoxy resin and lightfast pigments.By now, Franziska and Mercedes Welte are well established as specialists for figural, female sculptures, which they launched under the term NONOS.
The sisters have been collaborating on their oeuvre since 2005.

The beginning phase saw them implementing figurative miniatures made of steel.
Over time, the format and the size of the artworks were increased, bringing their potentiality to the forefront.
NONOS: sculptures with distinctive, well-defined feminine silhouettes that act as a sort of allegorical symbol of joie de vivre. They represent a congenial fusion of art, with all its idiosyncrasies, and the archetypal principles of femininity:
pure love, wisdom, beauty and mindfulness coupled with creative power – all these are anchored in the sisters’ artworks.

Genesis and technique of the artworks

The NONOS are three-dimensional, fully plastic sculptures made of curved steel, carbon, epoxy resin and lightfast pigments. As a foundation for the additive elements of the artwork, a supporting metal scaffold is built by hand. A further step in the process of the artworks is the assembly of the sculpture using various materials such as fibreglass, carbon, aramid and carbon fibres as well as resin. This matrix serves to connect the fibres as well as to fill the spaces in between. The character of the artwork develops as a result of the materiality and the colour.
In their external appearance, the NONOS are defined significantly by their personalised shape and colour design. This performative process requires a subtle and emotional approach to a colourful and monochrome colour palette.
The sculpture is encased in layered structures of lightfast pigments and resin. One very intensive phase of the genesis of the artwork is the final reworking of the surface structure. This requires a great deal of finesse. Only once varnished and polished does the surface take on its aesthetically brilliant feel, signalling the end of the creation of the artwork.

Themes, backgrounds and iconography

The stylistic elements and the choice of colour tell of the autobiographic life experiences and perspectives of the artists. As to the origin of the term NONOS and the meaning behind it – now that is a closely guarded secret.
The designation “NONOS” is protected by copyright since 2005.

The figures are modelled on the archetypal principles of femininity. Accordingly, the main task is to exemplify this creative potential.i In her work “The Making of Rubens” (1995), Svetlana Alpers discusses Rubens’ creativity as an original female characteristic.ii With their aesthetic language of form, full of clear inner strength, the NONOS make a confident and assertive appearance. At the same time, they also transmit a sense of delicate poetry, freedom and independence.
NONOS represent sensory pleasure and a love of life, and also make reference to the cosmological cycle of becoming, being and passing away.
It is the great freedom in the reception of the works that makes them so fascinating for the observer, inviting him or her to actively participate in the perception of the art.
A strong bond connects the artists and their NONOS.
Luckily, the sanctuary of Wellenstein castle by Lake Constance offers plenty of space for a symbiotic state of cohabitation.
With this tradition, Franziska and Mercedes Welte follow in the footsteps of the great master Picasso. He, too, loved his collection of wooden sculptures, “The Bathers” (1956), and surrounded himself with them throughout his lifetime.


NONOISM: now and in the future, this concept stands for a delicate and yet powerfully intertwined ensemble of colour, shape and movement. The NONOS convey femininity combined with sensual joy and uninhibited, life-affirming creativity. However, they also present an artistic confrontation with questions about self-determination and heteronomy or present and future. They manifest themselves in monochrome and multicoloured form, but also – as is the case of Margravine Agnes at the Klosterneuburg Monastery – in partially translucent optics, which can be interpreted as a reference to the transience of our earthly existence.
Margravine Agnes is the first religious artwork by the artists, and the first to be installed with light effects. The life story of Margravine Agnes, with all her facets, serves as an iconographic model for this work.
For this mysterious and understated room installation, commissioned by the Klosterneuburg Monastery’s Gallery of Modern Art, the Welte sisters implemented an aesthetically highly impressive contemporary solution to this theme.
As the light shines subtly through the sculptures, it is dispersed, giving the spatial setting and the haptics of the surface structures a hazy appearance. Questions of the past, of mysticism and reality are inextricably linked to the metaphorically pure surface of the sculptures.
If beauty binds us to the sensory world, then the sublime, in turn, is what frees us therefrom, Friedrich Schiller concluded in 1801.

Artistic categorisation

The fully plastic sculptures, which are structured on all sides, shimmer between smaller-than-life and larger-than-life works all the way to expansive installations encompassing an entire room.
They begin to oscillate, filling their surroundings with energetic vibrations.
The new artworks for the park “Giardini della Marinaressa” in Venice stun visitors with their monumental appearance. Despite their size, the Gothically influenced, elongated sculptures manage to keep their graceful, aesthetically balanced language of design. They convey a dematerialised weightlessness. A kind of spiritualisation that creates a link between the earthly and the cosmic sphere.
Colour awakens strong energetic impulses in the onlooker. Between heaven and earth, between light and dark; this is where colours are formed, says an Indian Sutra.
The shades of green and turquoise represent the sky and the sea, but also self-awareness, transcendence and spirituality.
As symbols for the sea, the air and the sky, they make an iconic appearance.

With their sculptures, the artists Franziska and Mercedes Welte execute
anatomic perfection with expansive dynamics that enter into direct interaction with the recipient. It is this oscillating sense of spaciousness, together with the smooth, refined hue of the surface design, that allows the observer to experience the art in a manner that appeals to all the senses. Depending on the position chosen by the observer, the varying angles at which the light falls give way to mysterious reflections and shadow play.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes perception as a form of infiltration into the dimension of creation. In phenomenology, reflection is the uncovering of that which is unreflected.iii
The graceful, floating design language of the sculptures takes the observer along on a transcendent perceptive experience.
The aesthetics of reception as a sensory perception of art allows the continuation thereof, and ultimately, the completion of the open work of art lies in the eye of the beholder.iv

Reception and iconography

“In the social media age, the Smooth is the calling card of the present”v. The aesthetics of smoothness lead to a kind of ennoblement of the familiar.
Perception is a union of the gaze with that which is being viewed. Sometimes it requires looking through the visible in order to discover what is
The NONOS fuse this polished ideal of beauty with the sensitivity, vulnerability and brokenness that give beauty its power of seduction and eroticism.
The poetry of beauty goes hand in hand with lust and joy for life.
And the enticing duel between the sublime and the beautiful plays into this here.vii
The elongated and dynamic design language evokes the aesthetics of a Gothic
“Beautiful Virgin Mary” statue, thus emphasising the sensually sublime appearance of the sculptures. A soothing feeling of amazement settles over the onlooker. The graceful, well-proportioned exterior and the aesthetic gown of colour result in a beauty that awakens feelings of love.viii
The poetically narrative work and lighting effects of the Margravine Agnes, created for the Klosterneuburg Monastery, infers an association with the light installations of the great Olafur Eliasson. A celebratory and sacred aesthetics of natural beauty that is designed to impress, as was implemented in a very successful manner for the installation of the Margravine Agnes.ix

Bottom line

Franziska and Mercedes Welte are constantly coming up with new forms of expression. Alongside painting, relief and sculpture, they also design furniture and other design objects.
The NONOS have gained broad recognition and can be seen at international art fairs and exhibitions.
The installation of the Margravine Agnes has been acquired by the Klosterneuburg Monastery and will be on display once more from May 2019.
As part of this year’s Biennale, the destination of the NONOS’ next journey will be Venice!
An intriguing liaison; the NONOS, the Giardino della Marinaressa and the sea – it remains exciting!


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