It was the year 1999 when a storm called 'Lothar' swept over the Black Forest and left a trail of devastation. The trees in the Black Forest, known for their formidable strength, resilience height, fell down like match-sticks. Huge areas of the forest remained exposed to the stormy wind and merciless rain.
For the people of Freiburg-Kappel the Camel Hill has always been a terrain of serenity and tranquillity and you see families, pairs trudging up the trail to view Kappel and the blue hills of the Dreisam Valley from above. This time it was the storm ‘Joachim’ that left its signature of destruction on, among others, Camel Hill (Kamellenberg).
The much awed, fantastic sculptures created by Thomas Rees were destroyed and lay here and there among the bushes and hillsides or beneath fallen tree-trunks.
Thomas Rees, is a good friend of mine, a soft-spoken, muscular man with greying hair at the sides, blue eyes and a boyish face. He’s actually a telecommunication technician. After work he likes to go to the forest, where he finds his peace and lets his thoughts wander. He was born in the Dreisam Valley in 1959 and is the son of a forest-worker. It was his father who taught him how to work with a saw. Thomas wasn’t interested chopping wood for the winter but in creating something new out of wood.
As a child, he cut and sawed wood and made small sculptures. If he found a piece of wood with a straight form he’d make a fantasy figure out of it. But he took delight in trunks and branches. In his fantasy they were all figures waiting to be carved out and brought to life as sculptures in the forest. Thomas loves to potter about and create his endless series of figures that can be seen not only in Germany but also in Switzerland. If he sees a tree-trunk lying on the mountain trails, he stops, thinks and carves a figure with his motor-saw.
‘I live in two worlds,’ he says modestly. One is the real world where he lives with his family and the other is his world of fantasy, which is enriched with wild, fantasy animals, feriocious riders and their steeds, eerie gargoyles, masked riders and the rider on the camel on Kappel’s Kamellenberg. You find stories that you can weave on your own when you observe and scrutinise his sculptures.
His sculptures near the Reichenbach, a stream that flows through Kappel, remind you of the huge faces of the Easter Islands.
His house is an adventurous ecological museum, for he shuns modern furniture, and has used tree-trunks as chairs, tables and cupboards, and is full of surprises. He takes pride in documenting his many trips in Europe with his family in a series of unique photo and text books. If Thomas invites you to his wonderful fantasy house, you’ll come out with your mouth open in awe. The sculpture meadow on the other bank of the rivulet Reichenbach has a lot of wooden sculptures that are withering and taking their share of the long winter months of frost, rain, snow and ice. The forest bugs contribute their share in weakening the wooden sculptures.
Nevertheless, it’s a delight to watch the works of Thomas Rees losing their pristine glory and breaking, disintegrating, and falling apart with the passage of time. Storms like Lothar and Joachim also have their advantages it seems. Previously there were only spruce and pine trees in the forests surrounding Kappel. Now we have pine, birch, ahorn and beech trees. The small meadow leading to the Eschenweg, via the Sports ground, was where Thomas Rees used to work on his sculptures, and he realised that a lot of people came to watch him. So he retreated into the forest, where perhaps a passing deer, a grunting wild boar or a fox might watch him working without asking him questions and interrupting him.