Peter Demetz, who lives and works in Italy, uses lime wood to create incredibly life-like figures set against neutral, minimal backgrounds. The detailing of his works push his chosen material, wood, to its maximum potential, achieving the illusions of movement and warmth.
Peter Demetz, who lives and works in Italy, uses lime wood to create incredibly life-like figures set against neutral, minimal backgrounds. The detailing of his works push his chosen material, wood, to its maximum potential, achieving the illusions of movement and warmth. His study of the human form has led to a set of works that invite the audience to equally study the body, that of others and their own, as his figures and their viewers adopt similar, contemplative, poses, mirroring one another. Artdependence Magazine interviews Peter Demetz to find out more about his technique, his inspirations, and the intention behind his work.
Artdependence Magazine: How did wood become your preferred medium for sculpting, and what are some qualities of this material that were, for you, unexpected or surprising?
Peter Demetz: My home area where I live has a 400 year old tradition of wood carving. I grew up surrounded by wood sculptors, and surely this way, this living material made an impression in my life. The wood was the material of my formation, with whom I grew up professionally. But it is much later that I decided to continue to work with it. I learned to love the smell, the warm surface, the natural look. But these are sentimental considerations. The choice of lime wood as a support to my art is in part a pragmatic choice and in part an artistic choice.
Wood has the features that I need to make these sculptures. Using lime wood is an artistic choice. With its bright color and very homogeneous and unobtrusive grain, it has the aesthetics that is currently suitable for my works. So there is no romanticism for me, when I create my works in wood. My focus is on the scene, on the expression. Something has to emerge, an indefinable feeling or emotion in my work. The material has to be second in line.
The figures in your pieces are often dressed in a very casual way, they seem familiar, by their attitude, by their pose – do you find yourself building a story in your mind, a voice or a persona, while they take shape?
The figures are clearly an important part of the piece, but they have a special role: they are like actors in my theatre. Working on the figures is first of all about the craftsmanship, the action itself. It takes a lot of time, and it is hard work, but carving is not the most creative part. I take many photos of people, sometimes in my studio, sometimes in public areas. My interest is focused towards the posture, the body’s expression, if they transmit an emotion. Looking the pictures of these people, I find inspiration for a scene. Here my imagination creates situations, short stories, and a certain feeling as the goal. In this way I develop my projects and complete the biggest part of the creative process, before beginning to build the piece.
Your very realistic figures stand usually in contrast to their background, which is smooth, almost bland, whilst the figures themselves are detailed, textured; full of wrinkles and dents. There is the expression that says perfection is boring – that when something is flawless, it has no character. What do you think about this?
I think it is absolutely necessary to have this contrast between my persons (I like call them so because they should not be statues, but rather like existing people, with souls) and the space around them. The figures has the role to invite the audience to follow them in their own world. The empty walls, clean horizons or wide spaces should be the room for our thoughts. I don’t want to tell stories. The emptiness in my rooms is like a playground for your minds.
I use the realism in my figures for one goal: the observer should forget the artist’s interpretation (and
It is not a question of perfection. If somebody stop at the surface, the material, the technical skills, every art can be boring. Of course, a realistic, figurative sculpture take the risk of being seen as a decoration. But I hope my audience is able to take one more step.
You are clearly inspired by the human form. What do you find most interesting about ‘body language’ in contemporary society?
The body language is perhaps the most honest kind of communication. We have more focus on controlling our facial expressions than our body movements. It is also interesting to follow the influence of the media on body posture and behavior. Especially the young people, they are showing very well with their bodies what kind of “main culture” they are following.
Other than wood, are there other mediums that you enjoy working with?
Not at the moment.
What project are you working on now, and what are your plans for this year?
At the moment I am working on pieces for my next exhibition. I’m working also on new wooden material and new compositions. I am especially experimenting with new works which leave behind the character of abstract landscapes and find an abstract urban environment, instead. We will see …
The next event will be a personal exhibition in Verona. On schedule are also two collective exhibitions in Italy, and art fairs such as CI in Istanbul and Art Miami Context.
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