Markus Raetz’s drawings, engravings and sculptures play with the viewer’s visual perception: shapes are unveiled or they shift before our very eyes as we move around the artwork, revealing the illusory nature of reality. The artist plays with the transition between polar opposites, whether in the form of a word that simultaneously encompasses its own opposite, one motif hiding another, or a shape turned on its head, as in this work, Nichtrauch/Non-fumée.
This sculpture is an anamorphosis that can be seen for what it is from only two standpoints. Visitors must walk around it to find one of the right vantage points. With each step, the matter shifts from a vague outline to an object, from a cloud of smoke to a smoking pipe, as though it were fluid. Another step, and the image breaks up again to form anew as an upside-down pipe with smoke pouring onto the base.
The motif echoes an emblematic avant-garde masterpiece of the early twentieth century, René Magritte’s painting La Trahison des Images (The Treachery of Images, 1929, Los Angeles County Museum of Art), with its iconic subtitle and text ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (‘This is not a pipe’). Magritte undermines painting’s power to create illusion by foregrounding the pipe’s figurative nature. Indeed, he goes even further, using the performative power of language to suggest that the image is not of a pipe at all. Raetz plays with the two layers of meaning in turn. The smoke is an illusion: the material used and the stability of its substance run counter to the very nature of smoke, and all it takes is one step to see it vanish and another to see it turn into a pipe. The playful ambiguity invites viewers to contemplate the reality and outward appearance of things.
Didier Semin, Markus Raetz: infimes distorsions, Paris, L’échoppe, 2013.
Ursula Bode, Johanne Gachnang et alii, Markus Raetz. NO W HERE, exh. cat. Nuremberg, Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2005.
Catherine Lepdor, Patrick Schaefer and Jörg Zutter, Identités et affinités. Art suisse contemporain dans la collection du Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Les Cahiers du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne n. 3, 1996.