There is something rather unsettling about sculptures with missing pieces. Even if they’re only slightly chipped, worn or missing a finger, there’s a disembodiment that accompanies your eyes as they traverse the rugged surfaces.
Italian woodcarver Gehard Demetz painstakingly assembles sculptures of children using tiny woodblocks, which defy the Western vision of the happy child at play, and instead focus on the varying emotional states of facial expressions. Demetz gives us the worried, scared, angry or sad child, bound up in social and political motions, such as holding a watering can like a gun or a silver toy train whilst pleading with the viewer. These children are trapped in time, not quite adolescents but not near adulthood. There is nothing pretentious about their expressions, yet their furrowed brows express a concern beyond their years. I see such a heavy weight resting on their carved shoulders, possibly one handed down from generation to generation – worries they did not create, but inherited.
Political allusions aside, Demetz works wood into a state of perplexity. I find myself drawn into the narrative he’s spinning, unable to think of anything else other than the troubles of my own childhood. That, and I’m incredibly moved by the honesty in each of his sculpted children. I wonder if I ever looked that worried?
Text by Marion Piper.