'Portretten'
Overzicht Galerie de Witte Voet
april 2008

de hoogte van de koppen is gemiddeld 60 cm.

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by Siobhan Wall

“Portraits”
Saturday 29th March to Saturday 3rd May 2008

Christian Wisse (b 1956 Terneuzen) is renowned for her figurative ceramic sculptures. In the past she has produced ambitious heads, including those of a crying soldier and an African man inspired by media sources such as newspaper clippings. More recently, she built and temporarily installed an almost life-size terracotta sculpture in Lelystad's Natuurpark in 2005. Clay was mixed with straw to produce a female torso surrounded by trees. The changing weather created interesting patina on the surface of the sculpture, as if nature was also involved in creating this impressive piece. In contrast, Christian Wisse's recent sculptures mainly consist of fascinating monumental heads. Some of her pieces are reminiscent of sea creatures such as her Neptune-like figure whose massive head is held up by a clay beard made of solid tubes. With truncated pipes emerging from the back of the neck, this is obviously not a realistic portrait but an attempt to visualise human idiosyncrasy in three-dimensional form. When asked about what inspired her, Wisse said she is fascinated by the way human beings are all so different. "Who says what is good or wrong -- what is possible or not possible? What should you look like?" She doesn't see these heads as belonging to recognisable people but rather like archetypes or partially recognisable characters. It is very important for her that what is normally perceived as odd appears to be beautiful or intriguing in these ceramic sculptures. As a result, Wisse celebrates human imperfection by including "all kinds of elements" thereby inviting us to reconsider what is ‘normal’ and what is ’abnormal‘ when engaging with her work. For example, her Cyclops figure has a hole under its armpit and a gentle, partially open mouth. Wisse focuses on parts of the body which often feel exposed. She says, "I like to show vulnerability" and this is also evident in the vertical indentations underneath the eyes. It is almost as if these small channels are in stone that has been worn away by centuries of crying. Another unusually amorphous figure had skin tags and lively eyes, with teeth just visible in a grotesque mouth. Wisse describes these characters as "a bit stupid, some are busy with their own happiness". I would suggest a kind of innocence, whereby each head is blithely unaware of its own grotesqueness and there is a kind of freedom in this. It is as if the enlarged eyelids, huge flat noses, curled and pointed tubes on top of the skull all suggest a rare autonomy because each character isn't concerned about how it might be judged or condemned by an image-obsessed society. If only we could all be as free from fear of censure and self-consciousness...
Only two of the pieces in this exhibition are, as Wisse describes "showing off". An armless, goblin-like figure adopts a gymnastic pose with its head almost touching its toes, which the artist says is "someone trying to force themselves double". Another, totally bald figure, is holding what looks like a ballet position but points its bulbous fingers down in front of its smooth body. These are not freaks, but, as Wisse suggests, they remind you that "ordinary people are freakish". Their idiosyncrasy makes them sympathetic because there is something tender and compassionate about these compelling works.
‘Portraits’ will open on Saturday 29th March at 16.00 with a talk on ‘Taste’ by artist and curator Siobhan Wall, as part of the Kunst3daagse.

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