But as a big Thomas Demand fan, I can’t imagine that working on The Complete Papers, published 2019 by MACK, could have been anything but a joy. And while I don’t want to undermine the labours of editor Christy Lange, it surely helps that Demand is alive, seemingly open to talk about his work and – due to the scale of each individual piece – only produces a handful each year.
Perceived by many as a photographer, Demand is first and foremost a sculptor. He constructs elaborate mural-scale installations featuring everyday objects, natural environments and places that are loaded with social / political references. His scenes often reconstruct images from media sources (such as well-known historical pictures or widely seen photographs from the news) – they are always devoid of figures, but often display evidence of recent human activity. And all made entirely from paper and cardboard, at a life-sized 1:1 scale.
Once Demand has photographed his models, he destroys them – so that the images are all we ever get to see. While this began as a process of documentation, it soon became an integral part of the artist’s practice, creating a disquieting balance between the convincingly real and strangely artificial. In the words of art critic Michael Kimmelman: Demand’s work is ‘close to, but never perfectly, realistic so that the gap between truth and fiction [will] always subtly show’.