Petra Lange’s stones are what they are
Petra Lange is a stone carver. In her work, she focuses on the hardest matter: volcanic and prehistoric rock, on magma that has become the earth’s crust. All this does not exclude, however, that at times she enjoys working in soft stone, which is only in the process of its formation, like clay slate. Ceramic is also not unknown terrain to her. But also marble, the sculptor’s stone among stones, plays an important role in her work. Still, her love is dedicated to granite, diabase, labrador, and basalt, to name only four. And this love is anything but arbitrary: this love has to do with the seriousness of the real game called art. You might as well call it love of truth. And thus we’d rather say: Petra Lange is a stone shaper. The concepts of picture, ideal, copy, image – or even more pathetic – re-creation are not part of her artistic vocabulary, neither are current affairs of our trying times, nor fancy names or trendy titles. As such, you could describe her work as something without a direct link to reality, at times nonfigurative, in short: abstract. I argue this point: no category, no estimation could be less correct.
Whoever claims that her preference for hard, dense plutonic rock was not arbitrary at all, needs to give a content-related explanation for that – that’s what logic demands. Otherwise, this claim would be nothing but a mere assumption and absolutely inappropriate to understand a sculpture as such. Even more so: to encounter a sculpture as a personified experience. Instead of an outstanding aesthetic attitude, a mere idea of form. This is the difference. The artistic process of shaping a stone, or only the attempt of doing so, is a concretization of a substantial inner view, no matter if the object became tense or relaxed, aggressive or emotionally comforting.
This becomes only comprehensible, as we understand that our thoughts have no less impact on the course of the world than our deeds. If, however, our intellectually perceived realities have attained shape in artistically formed stones, visible and tangible, then these sculptures are no longer abstract or arbitrary or re-producible.
And this is the foundation for the hard, durable, dark-hued stones Petra Lange chooses – most often directly from the quarries – with a sharp, critical eye. Those heavy stones have to make it easy to master the hiatus between two worlds – the intellectual and the material one. What has solidified unspeakably long ago emerges with an inner form of dynamics as a sculpture. Petra Lange gives the stone a reincarnation of life that is not inherent to it, such as joy, grace, memory, moon, desire, angel, fear, growth, melancholy, ball, love. Writing this down, it appears a labyrinthine sequence of random words. We read them abstractly as ideas or as concepts borrowed from a material world. For Petra Lange, such ideas are, word by word, tangible spiritual experiences; every single one connects in its own way to the great concepts of returning, revisiting infinite, expanded loops of time, ruled by the hierarchy of angels. (Who can be bigoted enough to deny their existence, for the simple reason that we haven’t seen them with our own eyes?) Seen in such a light – and insofar I rely on my own judgment – the carved stone is the result of a spiritual experience, a shape that has evolved from harsh treatment. The sculpture is the strictly cut body or at least one of the potential shapes. As nothing of it is meant or designed in a symbolic, not even in a symbolizing way, we need to investigate it thoroughly and accurately.
The metamorphosis of a stone that was collected consciously and with intention is not open for quick understanding; there is nothing of a beautiful impression, nothing tempts to disrupt the observation with immediate interpretation. Petra Lange’s stones – and they deserve this simplification as an absolute eulogy – Petra Lange’s stones are what they are. They are her – and that means her very personal – messengers from a world that is still ours – although this is often denied. Petra Lange’s works of stone are incorporations of places that are always open to us, as well – even if they are sometimes difficult to access. Messengers from the celestial world.
Does this sound all too serious? Too distant, too pathetic? But no – we know that angels create a lot of unholy nonsense from time to time. And do we not enjoy the real pleasures of inaccurate accuracies? Didn’t the moon pass, as we say, through our room tonight? Did Ladon, who was supposed to guard the Hesperides’ golden apples, really have exactly one hundred eyes? We, longing to perceive the works of our sculptures in a both unbiased and critical manner, should also wish to have as many open eyes. For Petra Lange’s stones one needs at least three.
Dr. Ulrich Conrads
Architect and Art critic