The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Aron Demetz

Untitled, 2011, cedar wood and pine resin, 225 x 95 x 88 cm

Born in Val Gardena, a wooded valley in the Dolomites, Demetz appropriated himself the traditional South Tyrolean woodworking technique, dating from the 17th century. He began his training at the Art School in Wolkenstein and completed his artistic education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg. Here his enthusiasm for contemporary art was stimulated.

The harmonious balance in his work, between the ancient classical carving techniques of his homeland and the new ideas of the contemporary art scene, makes his creations so unique, so fascinating. In addition to bronze, marble and glass, Aron Demetz in particular creates large, expressive figures in all kinds of wood. They show his incredible skills in carving this material.

When he was a child, he spent his vacations as a sheep herder, all alone in the mountains. His closeness to nature left an indelible mark on his character and the philosophical themes of his works. Harmony and conflict between man and nature mark his sculptures. Wood as a natural material goes through the same mechanisms of growth, becoming, die and decay as human beings. The tree is an idealized archetype of man in almost all cultures. The work Untitled from 2011, made of cedar wood, expresses this idea. Often the base and the life-seize sculptures of Demetz are connected to each other as if the artist has liberated the figures from the wood. He emphasizes the unity between man and the tree.

The artist works with different kinds of wood such as cedar, maple and walnut. He first makes a model in clay or loam. He uses the chainsaw for the basic forms, works with hammer and chisel and refines with wood rasps and sandpaper. With patience he captures the resin of pines in the woods of Val Gardena. The typical smell, color and texture fascinate the artist. Resin is equally important for the tree than blood for humans. When the bark of the tree is damaged it produces resin, in order to provide protection against viruses and vermin. The artist brings in abundance resin on the head, face, chest and limbs of his figures. It's like a second skin should cover the physical wounds and the psychological as well. The space around the artwork spreads the penetrating smell of the vegetable product. The process of crystallization of the resin changes the body. But the enigmatic look endures and expresses the emotion of eternal beauty, like the with kohl-rimmed eyes of the Egyptian death masks and portraits. Eyes are the mirror of the soul.

Demetz is exploring the potential and the limitations of wood as material. Sometimes the artist elicits to the material aspects that suggest injury but healing as well. He confronts us with the anxieties of transience. Mushrooms grow from his sculptures like the fungi that settle on damaged wood. These growths soon take off the perfection from the skin as natural indicators of unstable and morbid conditions.

The artist gives new dimensions to his works by means of unusual experiments. In his blackened, burned sculptures, Demetz digs even deeper to the core, the essence of all things. By immersion in a fire bath the tormented figures are cleaned and purified. In later projects he uses a robot computer and a self-designed chip. This causes frayed wood fibers that leave their mark on the perfectly smooth human figures. In our present society everything is about maintaining or perfecting the body or the skin. The idealized beauty is pursed in an artificial cocoon of a perishable body. The rejuvenation treatments of the skin cannot defeat the impermanence of the body. In the works of Aron Demetz we discover the perfect symbiosis of technical skills, thinking and imagination in 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' of human race.

Text: Myriam Geurts, February 2017