Beatrice Buscaroli
art critic and curator

by Beatrice Buscaroli

In these days Paris celebrates the German artist Georg Baselitz, painter but also an interpreter of woodcarving. The German art tradition that binds the woodcarving is an ancient story, investigated several times by other masters, until the more recent works by Stephen Balkenhol. Peter Demetz deeply fits into the use of this material, but his sculptures are very distant from the peremptory power of the axe, the grotesque, the violent, as happens in the work of those artists. The attention given to the smoothness of the surface near him to the perfection of the marble and not to the veins and the nature of a living material.
Right at the end of the eighties Europe discovered the refinement of oriental sculpture and in 1991 the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna - in the heart of the European tradition of wooden sculpture - presented the latest outcomes of Japanese art. The technology of digital photography and installation met the widespread use of wood recovery (K. Kenmochi), burned (T. Endo), visionary ( S. Matsui ), minimal (K. Nishikawa). Thanks to the painted wooden figures of Katsura Funakoshi the contemporary style was enriched with a new realistic, refined and allusive look. Expressive men and women figures, life-size, clean shapes, polished, painted, silently waiting to be observed. Peter Demetz fits with originality and look at this recent tradition of contemporary woodcarving.
 Suspended between the real existence made of dresses folds, wrinkles, jeans, sweaters, hair clips, little particulars of casual clothes, not prepared to pose for the artist and a white area where the space is a perceivable relationship between skew and real perspectives, a background carved out in the abstract and the real weight of small steps and light gestures, the world of Peter Demetz does not seem to easily open up the words. It includes a “here” and “beyond”, which composes and decomposes reality according to well-known and unknown parameters at the same time.
These girls walk, ride roughshod over the floor, gesture, look at themselves, men wear formal coats, observe, meditate ... Where they are, who they are. They turn, seized by a sudden thought, they observe something that is not there. They live in perfect theaters of veins and colors, rectangular windows, in a perfect geometry of walls that double the space and open it in a sort of cavity emptied from the normal coordinates of the usual measures and ratios. At the same time they are real and meaningful portraits, instantly captured, vivid breaths and movements, mannerisms, vanity.
Spaces are "inverse space" as wrote Bruno Raetsch , the result of a unique chemistry between painting and sculpture: "they are not exactly sculptures, because the artist has decided to show an accurate frame, (...) they are not pictures, because they play with their three dimensionality, (...) there is the depth, but the perspective is not perfect ... ", said Adriana M. Soldini (2011). The eighteen sculptures presented by Peter Demetz in Rome are a further development of his elegant and austere thought and impeccable technique. They are born and live in the wood, but echo the colors and light, sun and snow, clothes and water. They are suspended and attached to life simultaneously, a life made of nothing that the artist can stop, sometimes raising the figure from the same lime base, from a single piece of wood.
The twentieth century saw Arturo Martini’s Teatrini (Small theaters) and Fausto Melotti’s Teatrini (Small theaters), small scenarios where life is conceived according to the measures desired by the artist. Environment and figures recreate a possible and real dimension, but at the same time distant from that of nature.
The new further Peter Demetz ’s small theaters focus a miracle of quality craftsmanship and the infinite dream of a space contracting and granting, under the skillful hands of the artist, alluding to a sort of infinite magic, where these little people touch a sky, a dream, a place without limits, which necessarily contains them.
The figures are immaculate, anatomically perfect portraits that take shape from the light wood of the linden tree without ever feel nostalgia for the color. What was said of the great engravers. As Albrecht Durer, like Rembrandt, as Max Klinger: nobody feels the need for colors in their delusions of white and black. The colors, the tones, the shadows, the gradients arise naturally from the environment that welcomes them: small rooms where something happens, often something unexpected, fast, something that lasts a moment, as a Premonition, a feeling, My new freedom, a conquest, Victory!
There is always a "relationship", as Francesco Arcangeli wrote, setting the stories of his artists in the fifties: between two persons, a person and his thought, two persons and a landscape only alluded to, imagined, an end-less reflection elsewhere that adds to the reality of Demetz the danger of a kind of mirror that cancels the apparent neutrality of his observation, meticulous and reassuring.
Peter Demetz belongs to the Gardena Valley tradition of woodcarving, complicated by the variations of Pop representations of the figure in the twentieth century (since Segal to Munoz, as noted Valerio Dehò in 2008, but his works are not dominated by the sense of solitude of the first and show a different visionary than the second). It’s the twentieth century that spreads on his works the anxiety of a sort of perpetual instability. The only certain thing is the figure, in straight position, even in small size, like a “natural” statue, as said in the study of sculpture.
Below this figure, a base, a floor, a threshold, a border denied by the same figures swaying in that space that the artist, with the lights or colors of the backgrounds, makes unstable. That’s the way Peter Demetz made his research unique. Giving and taking away, reassuring, and insinuating. The figures are at the centre, conscious, precise and reliable: all around there’s the doubt, the question, the suspension that Demetz can depict in square and perfect corners.

Frames, balustrades, spaces apparently "functional". Certainty crumbles, the reality of the optical space is animated by a giddiness that comes right from the gap invented between the figure and its background. Hence the swaying, the sudden prancing of people who until a moment before were firmly planted on the floor ... From here the mystery of this uncertainty. Who am I? And how long?
It seems that Demetz, while trying to depict a certain time of life of his characters, also manages to guess the next instant. And that's what he wants to portray, although carefully framed, focusing on their jewelry, hands, uncombed hair.

Doubt is about the later. Theirs, ours.

Beatrice Buscaroli
Bologna, 2011