By Steven Matijcio
Tragedy and comedy meet under a melancholic sky in the work of Peter Callesen, where heroic gestures pool in fragile, but fertile shadows. Using the humble material of paper to pose pithy, if unanswerable questions, he mediates upon life, faith, death and rebirth through a mix of page and performance.
In early performative work, Callesen staged a theatre of hubris and failure in/through a number of sympathetic, yet foolish surrogates. From a troubled cygnet trying to dance "The Dying Swan" ballet (but repeatedly tripping over feet and feathers that are tellingly cut away) to a naïve sailor attempting to cross a river in a large cardboard boat, he earnestly sought redemption in a sea of abject ambition.
Falling down in spectacular, Sisyphean fashion, Callesen was fittingly described by Carmella Jarvi as "more victim of a dream than master of the situation." A similar dance between frailty and fantasy informs his employment of simple, ubiquitous, near-universal white paper to create effigies of architecture, figures, flora and fauna.
With intricately cut silhouettes and delicate forms constructed from these discards, he breathes life into a lyrical world on the simultaneous verge of reconstitution and collapse. From standard A4 sheets to installations that fill the interiors of churches, the fact that Callesen only "creates" from the material he cuts engenders a symbolic dialectic between absence and presence. In so doing, he creates form that transcends the flatness of the sheet, while remaining anchored to its fate. As sculptural hollows look to fill/fortify their voids, their shadows nip at their heels - haunting the present with ghosts of the past, and the future.