Barbara Deutschmann

Susannah Cremer-Bermbach-2021


Susannah Cremer-Bermbach 2021

Cum Cera

The sculptures and paper works of art by Barbara Deutschmann

“... But form is also something that is often carved into experiences, exposing something with which you forget the finite: an oblivion taken for beauty.” 1

The sculptures present themselves initially as geometrical shapes made of contrasting materials: the concrete or stone is hard, heavy, opaque, the wax is relatively soft and, due to its translucency, apparently lightweight. At a second glance the technical process also seems contrasting: resistant and durable material carved or cut into shape, and material whose texture depends on temperature, moulded into shape–a sculptural and a plastic process, each having a long tradition, joined together in one work of art. Inbetween is the awareness of another contrast: geometrical shapes and lines which are clearly and precisely contoured on the outside, appear blurred inside the wax forms. This insight in an interior marked by linear shapes, which, like a shadow room, cannot be identified clearly despite the outer clarity, is the actual event.

The complex manufacturing process attunes to this. In addition to concrete, limestone and marble in particular serve as raw materials. Important for Barbara Deutschmann is a high degree of hardness, a fine crystalline, sparsely marbled structure and a subtle, homogeneous, light to dark colour. Once chosen and examined in terms of its immanent formal possibilities, the stone gets its external geometrical shape. The surface is initially smoothed and later carved to show chisel marks. A homogenous texture is created by tiny undercuts that break down the glossy structure. The concrete part has a typical pored texture, caused naturally by trapped air during casting. Linear fissures are visible in both materials. Amount, position, and depth of the parts that are to be removed are determined and then cut out. This is followed by the positioning and mounting of separately made linear shapes of black or sometimes also coloured stable hard wax in the cutouts. These are then filled with heated, colourless paraffin. As soon as the hardening process is over, the surface is sanded and polished.

It is a work process with different stages of which each single one demands a high degree of experience in handling the materials, respect for their specific characteristics and craftsmanship. The same applies to the works on paper that are created independent of the sculptures, although work stages are less elaborate and complex and can therefore be done more directly. Invariably, strong, but not too hard, absorbent paper with a prominent structure is used as a basis: preferably long-fibred and irregularly structured handmade hemp or Himalaya paper, sometimes relatively evenly structured paper like deckle edge. First of all, rectangular areas of colourless paraffin are created with an encaustic pen on the front, some distorted in their perspective and divided by linear spaces; similar areas and thin lines of black coloured paraffin are applied on the back. Afterwards black areas visible on the front are reprocessed with black wax. This leads to an interaction between opaque and transparent, precisely contoured and blurred lines and areas, between statics and dynamics. The constructive appearance is playfully infiltrated by shifts and interleaving that seem plausible at first but then turn out to be more or less contradictory.
Fixed with a spacer in the middle of the background of the frame, the paper object develops its own, real physical presence accentuated by ripples and bulges, independent of the irritating concept of space.

As a stone sculptor, Barbara Deutschmann is aware of the long history of this art genre which goes back to the 19th century and is inspired by the Greek and Roman antiquity. She also knows how wax was used traditionally and that it was not regarded as having an own artistic quality in ancient times. In art painting it had been an essential ingredient for binding colour pigments which were mixed with the hot wax and melted together with the image carrier during the encaustic procedure. Encaustic was used for portraits of mummies and later for early Christian icons. Wax had an important role as model and mould when making sculptures and plastics, especially death masks. The Romans also used it to even out imperfections in their figures. With a few exceptions, the main visible use of wax until the 20th century was in the decorative arts in such wide variations from wax figures and doll heads via anatomical specimens and moulage casting to devotional pictures and votive gifts. Today the use of wax is mainly limited to candles.

During her training as a stage sculptor at the National Theatre in Mannheim and her studies at the University of the Arts in Bremen in the 1980s, she focused on figurative and abstract forms. At that time she also began to work with stone, concrete, wax and cast resin. When she became a freelance artist in 1992 she concentrated exclusively on these materials and geometrical artistic forms. In the 1990s she first created assembled wall sculptures in which cast concrete parts and monochrome or polychrome parts made with paraffin enter into a dialogue. These sculptures already represent her interaction with statics and dynamics, tranquility and motion, with the rhythms of motion and contrary motion. So she already employed techniques like casting wax into concrete and integrating linear forms of hard wax into paraffin in her early works.

Assembled wall sculptures were Barbara Deutschmann s preferred style for many years. Increasing struggles with walls as boundaries, as limitations in space, led to the physical and spatial autonomy of freestanding sculptures which can be looked at from all angles and thus include the element of motion. Experiences gained here also enabled a new view on surfaces which she explores in her paper works. Barbara Deutschmann occasionally checks her ability to observe precisely and to take correct measurements by eye through drawing figures and objects. These private “finger exercises” are barely worth talking about but
they are part of an art-historical background that seems to shine through her sculptures. Her Latin titles reflect this with casual sovereignty. It appears even more succinct and pointed in the catalogue‘s title. The name “SINE CERA” was a sign of quality in ancient Rome for a perfectly crafted sculpture which did not need any further addition of wax. In turn “CUM CERA” refers tongue-in-cheek to a technically similar but in its intention diametrically opposed approach: the stone is carefully fragmented and the missing parts are shaped with wax to a plastic volume according to the outer contours. Both materials, the sculptured as well as the plastically formed, are autonomous and treated equally and at the same time relate to each other in a contrasting way.

Her clear, geometrical and harmonious artistic form puts her sculptures and paper works in the same line as concrete art whose aim was to create works for “mental purposes” according to Max Bill in 1947. Meant here was a rational i.e. intellectual approach to the arts. The visual sense is supposed to be addressed and developed as a “reflecting” eye. Barbara Deutschmann‘s sculptures do more than this. At first they seduce the eye: besides being able to handle materials like stone, concrete or paper and wax according to their natural characteristics, Deutschmann also displays the immanent beauty of the materials. The balanced proportioning of parts and restrained colours radiate calm and silence. The materials and their meticulous treatment stimulate the desire to touch them. The roughened surface lets the stone seem as if it is covered by fine-pored skin and appears therefore almost soft, vulnerable and more warm than cold. The smoothly polished surface of the wax on the other hand appears solid and resilient, more cold than warm. The cast dark forms of hard wax are reminiscent of
containments like fossilised resin. We hardly notice that the optical impression contradicts what we know about the nature of stone and wax. This awakens the desire for haptic confirmation.

The sensual attractivity is enhanced by the semi-transparency of the wax which only allows vague insights into the interior of the sculpture. Depending on the light the embedded linear forms are a horizontal, vertical and diagonal continuation of the lines cut in stone, they connect and complement them. Sometimes they form geometrical bodies. Or they reflect shapes that result from the pieces cut out of the stone. The attempt to distinguish between the real texture and an illusion, between what it is and what it seems to be fails due to the lack of clarity. This failure, in turn, gives the imagination or the “inner eye” (if trained) the opportunity to further shape the space with one‘s own thoughts and memories. So it is about perception that reflects and self-reflects. And this is not so much inspired by what we can clearly see but by a kind of blurriness that we perceive when
looking out of the window in a train. As a projection space for the intellect as well as the psyche it shows us that we always perceive more than what we see.2

The actual topic is neither the geometrical, reduced language of form nor the synthesis of contrasting materials. Essential and common among all groups of works is the irritation building up in the interplay of clarity and blurriness, statics and dynamics, of motion, counter motion and tranquillity – which seems to relocate the spatiotemporal structure with the quasi imploding motion dynamics. That what is achieved in the paperworks by the perspective relocation of lines and surfaces which are sometimes blurred, sometimes clearly contoured and layered on top of one another, is created in the sculptures by the inner life of the wax forms. Their texture makes the contours of the linear forms become softly blurred, as if painted in sfumato technique. We do not find out anything specific, not about their actual formal character and even less about the space in which they are located. The outer shape only allows the conclusion that it must be small. We can measure its height and width visually. What we are unsure about is its depth. It is intensified subtly when the lines cast in wax become a continuation of those cut in stone or concrete. Or intensified even more when the lines join into a geometrical shape in perspective. Thanks to the blurriness of the interior, taken to the absurd as an illusionary space, what remains is the perception of something that emerges as a reflection, shadow, or silhouette of something that is embedded or is a sediment in an interspace, and only completes and fulfills itself beyond the measurability of space and time in a thought, a feeling, a memory, an insight.

1quotation from Yves Bonnefoy, Der rote Schal, München 2018, p.219, freely translated by Sylvia James
2 or further details see: Wolfgang Ullrich, Die Geschichte der Unschärfe, Berlin 2002

Jens Trimpin-2021


Jens Trimpin 2012

So obvious is the arbitrary playfulness (utopian) inscribed into the sculptures / plastics, so evident the “family likeness” of the sharp / hard lines and the overlapping surfaces that press backwards and forwards, often in formal duplication, that the respective differentness when joining individual volumes – stone / paraffin interlocked – of the three-dimensional structures interweaves this infinite ornamentation (in a finite world) of stripes and angular surfaces and light-transmitting bodies to a sound creation of its own kind.

Jens Trimpin

Michael Stoeber- 1999


Michael Stoeber 1999

Michael Stoeber, Kestnergesellschaft Hannover – catalogue "sculptures", 1999
 Sculptural Scores - On Barbara Deutschmann's Works

Barbara Deutschmann’s first sculptures from the eighties show the human being. They represent him in a direct and figurative way, reduced to the essential features of a type, even an archetype without any detailed individualization. We see heads and torsi placed right on the wall. They are representations of nakedness, of defencelessness, of unprotectedness. They are condensed emotion. In a second step these sculptures of human beings acquire a background of their own, a second wall in front of the wall, an architectural setting. It is as if Martin Heidegger’s idea had become part of the reality of the works, an idea which says that humans only become humans when they settle down in an environment of their own.

In a further step the artist who is increasingly fascinated by the reality of these architectures concentrates on them alone. She abandons the direct representation of human beings. The background becomes the foreground of her work and its proper subject. By changing perspective Barbara Deutschmann also changes the paradigm of her art. From now on she works in an abstract way and rejects the way of perceiving things which she learnt when studying with professor Bernd Altenstein from Bremen. The liquidation of a mimetic approach to art is radical. Her new constructional wall and floor sculptures are dominated by strategies of disintegration and re-composition.

Disintegration in that she cuts into the material, re-formation by creating compositional and material alliances. The sculptor cuts the stone into squares and cubes, rhombuses and angles, circles and circular segments. She works with concrete and sandstone, marble and granite, wax and casting resin, iron and pigment. She opposes and links together different forms and materials. Surface and space, colour and materiality, emptiness and compactness form structures full of contrast and intensity. The transparent resin encloses colours and forms which float to the surface of the sculptures like the archaic organisms sometimes imprisoned by amber.

Whether Barbara Deutschmann constructs a form out of wood, whether she pounds concrete or pours polyester, whether she cuts a stone or mills it or carves it and fills it with liquid wax, whether she draws firm traces of colour behind a clear curtain of polyester or a dull veil of paraffin wax or subtly modulates the nuances of just one colour, whether Barbara Deutschmann’s sculptures consist of one piece or many parts, whether they are a structured ensemble or a compact and closed whole, whether they have a circular, a square or irregular form, they will always have one thing in common: the gesture of her work is rhythmical, its attitude is alive and its spirit is invigorating.

The origin of these works comes unmistakably from the principles of music. We think of Kandinsky’s recollections and of the birth hour of abstraction in the fine arts. It was attending a Schönberg concert which motivated Kandinsky to start his first abstract studies. The fact that the composer had abandoned the triad was the decisive reason for the painter to abandon the object in his pictures. Barbara Deutschmann’s works seem to be notations of a score. What we cannot any more read mimetically can be easily comprehended as sculptural music and as plastic rhythm. Within the formed elements of her sculptures it is the blanks in particular that appear like the necessary and meaningful breaks within a musical sequence.
The gesture of musicality as well as that of composition and of material alliances bring the artist’s works back to the human being. This happens not only because in their abstract musicality they have an effect on the human imagination and emotion just as music does, but also as an allegory of the human condition. The vocabulary of forms and its display, the opposition of positive and negative parts, statics and dynamics, part and whole, surface and space, transparency and dullness, light and shadow, all these contrasts seek equilibrium and harmony in Barbara Deutschmann’s works.

And yet the contrasts always remain visible. The desire for dissolution and fusion is tangibly present, but also the reality of the facts opposing this wish. Thus the works are both the echo of desire and of reality. Ambivalences, contradictions and paradoxes are mirrored in the artist’s work as they reign in humankind. But in her work they form harmonic couples like for a round dance; there they are tamed by the power of the aesthetic.

Michael Stoeber 2001


Michael Stoeber 2001

Michael Stoeber, Kestnergesellschaft Hannover - Katalog "Raum - Teile", 2001
Bottomless - On Barbara Deutschmann’s New Series of Sculptures

Sculptor Barbara Deutschmann from Bremen has become known for her work that draws its force from the successful alliance and opposition of different materials. When she employs concrete and wax, casting resin and iron, these are not merely different materials interacting with each other, but rather they are the protagonists of a fundamental opposition. They initiate a dialogue between what is solid and what is soft, between something widening and something closing, between what is rough and what is polished, between what is heavy and what is light, between something mineral and something organic. This opposition appears to imply the analogy of a dialectical world organized and conceived of in thesis and anti-thesis.

„Raum-Teile“ (parts of space) is the title of Barbara Deutschmann’s exhibition in Hamburg’s Renate Kammer Gallery, a title that has dual meaning. On the one hand it refers to the fact that the inspiration for this new series of sculptures originated from the artist’s dealing with the shape of the gallery space in which the exhibition takes place. Most of the objects make clear reference to the architecture. On the other hand, making space itself the subject of her work in a more abstract and general way is also as important to Deutschmann as how we perceive it.

The second part of the exhibition title is also ambivalent. Deutschmann always represents space as part, piece, allusion and fragment. On the other hand the exhibition comprises three parts, or stations bound to each other, or acts as in a stage play. Although they were not the first to be executed, the smaller pieces present the conceptual beginning of the work. They are the closest to Deutschmann’s sketches, those minimal and tiny motifs that the artist puts down in sketchbooks reminiscent of journals. The themes of the smaller objects, „Räume II/I-XII“, are the most distant from her approach to the gallery space and write the letters of the alphabet of space in a somewhat more abstract manner.

The larger objects, entitled „Räume, I-V“, are more closely bound to the specific spatial circumstances. „Räume I/I“ thematisizes the capital of the lower shafts of the neo-Gothic columns in the gallery space. It inversely appears as a dark gray trapezoidal form made of paraffin wax and enclosed with concrete like a valuable inlay. „Räume I/II“ plays with two light surfaces that mirror the different levels of the gallery. „Räume I/III“, a two-piece corner sculpture, reproduces the movement of the ceiling arches. The dark, wax pigments trace the lines of the arches; the light paraffin portrays the white ceiling. The motif looks like an open book in a distorted perspective. „Räume I/IV“ represents a displaced perspective as well. It is the observer’s gaze from bottom to top, to whom the overlying squares of the column capital appear to be two intersecting rhombuses. Finally, „Räume I/V” treats the place where wall and ceiling meet.

The large sculptures get by with only a few colors. The concrete contains either a rust or anthracite pigment, while the paraffin wax comprises the whole spectrum of hues from a light, white to a dark, black gray. All of the objects are comprised of two parts, thus deploying a fundamental rupture that intersects each of the motifs. This rupture obviously also determines the third part of the exhibition: six floor sculptures made of white concrete. These pieces are oriented towards the vaulted ornamental ring at the upper end of the column capital, which they move down to the ground on the same scale as a bas-relief. The ring is encircled by an iron square and by light, cast resin, while the rupture splits the square in two symmetrical triangles.

The floor sculptures clearly establish the character of „Räume I und II“: symmetries and reflections on the one hand, ruptures and displacements on the other. The play of geometrical transparency and mysterious presence is more subtly structured in the wall sculptures. The relationship between line, surface and space is both intricate and irritating. Although Deutschmann’s most recent pieces are clearly more architectural, more spatial and less rhythmical than her past work, their fragmentary, displaced and broken character causes the spatiality of the „Raum-Teile“ to lack a gravitational center. The architecture falls into a bottomless pit, and its coordinates lead into a void. Thus the contours of an existential metaphor once again become visible from behind Barbara Deutschmann’s strictly conceptual sculptures. They become a sober parable of the contemporary human condition.

Rainer Beßling-2012


Rainer Beßling 2012

Excerpt of Rainer Beßling’s introduction during the exhibition „Sweet and Straight“ by Barbara Deutschmann and Ulrik Happy Dannenberg at the Gallery 2012

Barbara Deutschmann

Just how such two contrary art positions like those of Ulrik Happy Dannenberg and Barbara Deutschmann would tolerate each other in the exhibition room, was a suspenseful question for all persons involved. Opposites not only attract, but quite often both parties also benefit from this contrast and maintain their own message all the more concisely. In this case, one may well speak of a most inspiring correspondence, not least because both artists comprehend how to work with space and because they succeed in building a formal bridge between their works. Staircase-shaped formations in the sculptures refer in a certain perspective to similar arrangement in the object paintings. The tranquilized sculptural shapes induce that the centerlines and expanses in the painting are accentuated. And by all means there are precise alliances, too – for example in the material, however with different signatures. While Dannenberg uses resin to increase the surface effect, Deutschmann applies paraffin wax to enable a glance to the interior of the sculpture. “Important is what happens beneath the surface” is a central sentence of the Bremen sculptress with regard to her artistic concept.

With incisions and inserts, the sculptress not only countersinks windows in marble and granite, above all she stage-manages inside the solid figures and on their surfaces a vivid interplay of materials, expanses and lines. The soft and the hard converge – palpable stone corresponds with a rather indefinite materiality, blocky presence with transparency, weightiness with airiness. The body appears complete and secluded at the first glance, openings and apertures undo this impression. The graphic art of the incisions breaks through the surface of the stone which has, with its reduced colorfulness, not a smooth but a materially and formally moved surface. The sculptures sustain their position outwardly and protrude visually into the room, while simultaneously attracting the view to the events within.

The glance into the interior of the stone may be regarded as a cipher of an archaic desire, as a symbol for the expedition to the essential core of things. At the same time, however, the contemplator is kept in uncertainty by Barbara Deutschmann’s artistic works. The paraffin provides a diffuse glow inside the sculpture. Formations are shining through like being behind milky glass. In different ways, the courses of lines and expanses are taken from the stone and continued. Elements and forms are repeated outside and inside, triangles for instance are run through in varying designs, sometimes the centerlines and borders proceed like staircases, another time they are located at right angles to the stone, then again they may show a life of their own.
The immense formal appeal, the esthetic pleasure which arises from stringency and variance, is flanked by a suspenseful challenge with regards to content. The glance into an interior, in spaces and on elements which cannot be exactly determined and grasped, provides only limited vision in the sense of discovery and disclosure. This spectacle within activates imagination and illusion. Interior space and the inner view of the spectator meet one another. Besides the materially tangible, there is also room for the immaterial, notional, metaphysical. Someone once called that “spatiality without adhesion”.

Barbara Deutschmann should like that. Indeed she brings all her works to a rational core and thus puts her own intentions in a nutshell. But behind the concrete and reduction there is still some other layer shining through. Some emotionality joins the stringency and acumen, held at bay by geometry. Leave things in flux and in the between – this, too, is part of the sculptress’ credo. Never let the works be effective at one or at the first glance, never offer just one option of interpretation. Construction as well as organism might have developed from an interior nucleus. If nothing else, the wax is synonym for various physical conditions and thus also levels of reality. Even if the sculptures maintain an abstract language, the block shapes do not quite rule out associations of architectures. Archetypes of houses appear to have been activated, maybe even imaginations of housings in an existential sense. Memories of early stages of her work – the artist may pardon me – are imposing themselves, where, as a result of her studies with Bernd Altenstein, figurative shapes took center stage. As is generally known, Altenstein co-shapes the surroundings of mankind. If one additionally considers that Barbara Deutschmann once used to work in stage design, her more recent works gain at least a sapid resonating cavity.

The figure is indeed detached; the sculpture itself operates within the space, converses via material and shape. Geometry replaces psychology, there is no companionship of human appearance and no aim to mimetic reproduction – and yet quite a few of Barbara Deutschmann’s sculpture artworks arouse intuitively and with great vehemence ideas and sentiments of something human, of categories and conditions of human existence.

Besides the blocky house shapes, it is above all also the more recent stele-like shapes which arouse such associations. A central axis is drawn like a vertebral column trough the paraffin inlays, which appear at the first glance like intarsia with ornamental elements. The inner life of the sculptures resembles a skeleton, and the cool austere construction thus features an organic core. The status of existence is ambivalent, the link to nature however highly visible. Nature is, even if not replicated, even if analogies may only arise in retrospect after the intuitive creative process, the paramount reference for shapeliness and clarity.

And what one can read in Barbara Deutschmann’s works about human existence: it is not that much the outer shape which makes one notice it, but formal, structural moments. Miscellaneous substances and designs, contrast and correspondence, action and reaction are interlocking. A unity in counterpoints, leveling with disruptions. The merger of the detail with the entity. Remove and amend, open and close. The sculptress works with oppositions and always keeps the complete body in sight. It is not a matter of fragments, but of closeness which is permanently on the way, as a flowing process and as a dialogue between within and without.