Hans van der Ham over Armourshow
Hans van der Ham about ARMOURSHOW Kunstbeeld, juni 2007
The sculptures are arranged in a group in my studio. I took this photo for the invitations to a recent exhibition in Germany. Although my sculptures and drawings never have titles, I called the exhibition ARMOUR SHOW, which suggests something in the nature of combat: “armour” may be interpreted as a suit of armour or as weaponry. On viewing the figures, however, it becomes clear that none of them would be capable of anything like combat. Their dress would afford little or no protection, in some cases even seeming to consist of haphazardly assembled patchwork. Their militancy is more suggestive of Don Quixote, touching rather than alarming. Moreover, the majority are visibly empty in that where a face would normally be there is a black void. They are just husks, exteriors. Archetypical figures play an important part in the creation of my work, such as the stock characters of the Commedia dell’arte, a form of street theatre dating from mid-16th century Italy. One such character is the buffoon Pulcinella who, in clownesque attire, fooled people in the public by playing all sorts of tricks, holding up a mirror to them and confronting them with their shortcomings. No-one knew what to make of him; his true nature was hidden behind his assumed identity. Another favourite is Pinocchio, a wooden puppet brought unasked to life. After many escapades involving typically human shortcomings he is finally permitted to become a real boy. As I see it, Pinocchio is a metaphor for the tragedy of existence. Various ethnic peoples have a visual culture based on the actual vivification of inanimate material. Here there is no question of fairy-tale metaphors like Pinocchio but of hard reality. The figures created ARE the person or deity they portray and not, as in our culture, a symbolic representation. I find this fascinating. And then there’s the story of the golem, in Jewish legend (and later in a different guise in a novel by Gustav Meyrink) a clay figure identical in all respects to human beings except for one element – the lack of a soul, with all the dramatic consequences that entailed. In this age of biotechnical developments my sculptures are meant as reminders of old tales that in time, almost as a kind of alchemy, could become reality.