It is often said that children are privy to a certain wisdom inaccessible to adults, that their naivete allows them to gaze at the world without the cynicism that comes from a long time of living in it. In his large-scale wood sculptures, Italian artist Gehard Demetz presents children as powerful figures — knowing, self-aware and bold. A master craftsman, Demetz creates his compositions within a surrealist framework, portraying his subjects with a lifelike accuracy that makes way for the haunting details to creep in. Gehard Demetz took some time to talk to Nastia Voynovskaya about the philosophies behind his sculptures, as well as his creative process.
Has wood always been your preferred medium? How did you get into working with it?
The consistency of the wood (at the moment it is lime) is ideal for my work and the color is monochrome which doesn’t increase the disruption of the construction of the wood pieces. In the past I used also bronze and Plexiglass.The children in your sculptures seem to cast dark, knowing gazes, as if they are troubled by something — not at all the typical picture of childhood innocence or happiness.
What prompted you to portray children in this way?
After my interest for anthroposophy I began to read about Rudolf Steiner and I started to search connections to my childhood. The idea of Rudolf Steiner, that children til 6 years live unconsciously things passed over from their ancients. My sculputures shall be children who appear adultly. They are aware of their existence. The consciousness what has been assigned on them and what expect them in the future. Our ancestors passed through a lot and it has been transmitted to the children through their subconsciousness. They shoulder the blame which is not theirs. The transition to adulthood is perhaps the getaway of all this, who knows?
Many of your figures are composed of smaller blocks of wood that don’t quite fit to make a perfect whole, though these rough details can only be seen upon closer inspection. Why do you prefer this incomplete feel of the work?
The sculptures are constructed of wood blocks which reminds to module of computer science. The children are made of different module as life and experiences form our personality… which are still in transaction and never completed.
How do you come up with your compositions? Do you use models?
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I use a diary where I write thoughts and draw sketches. From there I start carving, building up a dialogue with the sculpture. This can evolve and bring me to another result.
The children in many of your sculptures can be seen holding metal objects in an aggressive manner, almost as if they are pointing weapons. Do these objects hold a special significance?
The objects are not of metal, but still of wood. Every object has a significance by itself, and the manner how it is being used changes anther time their meaning.
As far as I understand you live in a rural area. Does your proximity to nature and the land inform your work?
Unconsciously for sure, as travelling in big cities influence me as well.
Do you have any future projects you would like to mention?
I am looking forward to work with the gallery Jack Shainman of New York next year.