Peter Callesen works with paper, a conventional, and in many people’s eyes, boring material. But Callesen turns it into fragile and exceptionally beautiful expressions.
He works with everything from A4 formats to monumental paper installations, performance and video art. Characteristic for all his works is a narrative aspect – they function as starting points for stories which we as viewers can build onto by taking recourse in our own experiences.
A method which Callesen uses in the majority of his works is to combine paper cutting and folding. Two-dimensional surfaces metamorphose into three-dimensional figures. The figures tend to be relatable to existential themes – for instance an angel in a cage, a bird in flight, or a dying flower – yet without the artist suggesting easy answers or solutions.
An important component of the cut paper works is the contrast between positive and negative space. The negative and empty space, left in the paper surface after cutting, contrasts with the positive space established by the three-dimensional figure. This figure remains firmly affixed to the two-dimensional paper surface. It is not cut loose. Hence, in Callesen’s works, the past and the present are bound together, the possibilities as well as the impossibilities, a feature which lends a tragic element.
Amongst Callesen’s large paper works we find examples of 1:1 copies of ladders and stairwells constructed out of thin white paper. Other times he avails himself of earlier sketches, cut-outs, drawings, prints and photocopies, which he combines to create new works. An example is White Window (2010).
House og Thoughts (2011) a large scale work of art, and first time presented at SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum in this exhibition. The work is made of 1.000 sheets A4, and makes a house sized around 2,4 x 2,4 x 2,54 m.
Callesen’s works are also inspired by fairytales.Sometimes they draw on a more general interest in childhood and the memory of childhood, or on how a child-like imagination can be retained as an important part of our everyday adult lives. Yet in Callesen’s performances imagination often collides with reality: it is impossible for the king to live in a paper castle, and the sailor who sets out in his cardboard boat must struggle to stay afloat. If the project fails or succeeds is not experienced as important – it is the belief in the possibility of the project that matters.
Peter Callesen was born in 1967 in Denmark and presently lives in Copenhagen. He studied in Århus and at Goldsmith’s College in London (1997-2000). He has participated in many exhibitions, both in Denmark and internationally. For the exhibition at Sørlandet’s Art Museum, he has produced a completely new large-format paper installation. Its premier presentation will be in the museum’s Gallery 1.
Curator Else-Brit Kroneberg
Exhibition supported by Statens Kunstråd, Denmark