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.