Themes of life, death, body and identity are brought into being in Peter Callesen’s second solo show at Helene Nyborg Contemporary, Paperman. The title of the show refers to the artist’s identity and the close connection between work and creator. That the artist becomes one with the paper by using clear references to his own body and physics puts forward the question if it is at all possible to divide an artist from his work.
In the relief Crying my Eyes Out with dramatic incision, Callesen has removed the eyes from the (self)portrait. Once contained in the now-empty sockets, the eyes are lost to tears. The imprinted streams running down his face reveal this symbolic dissolution into an emotional cry and gather at the bottom of the frame in an empty space.
In spite of the close connection between self and work, one will always find a self-ironic distance in Peter Callesen’s work, which typically has a strong tension between humour and tragedy. Yet Paperman digs deeper into the psychological universe as more of the pieces bring out a darker side of the artist not seen before. For example in Struggle and Bound to be Free which both portray a figure in fierce animosity with itself.
Peter Callesen examines the flat paper’s opportunities to magically transform from image to a spatial reality. Three-dimensional figures emerge from the cut paper, leaving behind the silhouette as a negative, but which in itself is indeed a presented image.
Hanging Skin shows a skeleton cut out of paper where the silhouette beneath outlines that of a male body. The figure holds his own skin in his hand as if the skin was pulled off the body. This motif refers to Valverde’s anatomic drawings from 1560, where the artist poses with a skin in one hand, as in Michelangelo’s composition. With these classic references Callesen asks the question of the work’s origin and the artistic subject’s placement in the work and in art history.
The main work White Diary presents a cross section of a human head with an opened sketchbook in the centre. Out from the pages of the book grows a complex thought-process as an imaginative landscape filled with details and fairytale stories. White Diary can be seen as a venture into a person’s inner consciousness, where the diary’s cut-out pages present a psychological universe which branches into a tangle of thoughts. This maze mapping of the brain shows at the same time confusion and a feeling of getting lost in the detail, which in turn disables any rational overview for a while. Not until the sculpture is seen at a distance and its entirety drawn in can you create order in the chaos.
Peter Callesen is born in 1967 and lives and works in Copenhagen. He is educated at Goldsmiths College in London and has exhibited world wide, recently at the Shanghai Biennale, Emily Tsingou Gallery (London), Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts (New York), do Art Gallery (Seoul), Nikolaj (Copenhagen) and Museet Brandt’s (Odense). In November he will have his first solo show in New York at Perry Rubenstein Gallery.