A continual shifting between reality and fiction lies at the heart of Thomas Demand’s works: they are ambiguous screens that occupy the boundary between abstraction and detail, formal concreteness and two-dimensional illusion. Each of the artist’s works reveals an awareness that contradictions are fertile terrain and that multiple levels of interpretation can coexist as manifestations of the symbolic richness of each image. Using an original process to develop his art, Demand seeks inspiration in found images, mixing memories tied to his own experience with recent history or with the collective imagination. These places of memory are translated into paper and cardboard models which the artist produces in his Berlin studio. Executed with obsessive precision and with slight deformations that are conceived with the camera lens in mind, these sculptural models are then photographed, and the resulting image is the work that Demand presents to the public. In some cases, however, the sculpture becomes a usually 35-millimeter film.
Intent on developing new methods, the artist recently decided to use digital technology in order to achieve a more exact realization of his works. To mark this important transition, he settled on a complex image of a grotto defined by a myriad of stalactites and stalagmites. Demand used as his primary source a commercial postcard that illustrates a grotto in Mallorca, a popular tourist attraction. At the same time, he delved further into the subject, collecting many other postcards and materials devoted to grottos, the first typology of habitation known to man. Preceded by a model in gray cardboard that is made up of approximately 900,000 parts, measured and cut with the aid of a computer, the final work is Grotto, 2006. The photograph captures the eye through the meticulous description of the results of a complex natural process occurring over millennia. However, perhaps precisely because of the extreme precision and the abundance of detail, the place that is represented transcends any precise geographic location, weighed down, instead, with philosophical values tied to the search for meaning and truth.