Artist Babs Haenen works with colored porcelain slabs and builds organic vessels with a dynamic inner choreography. Her new work on exhibition at Rotterdam’s Galerie VIVID (April 27 – June 15, 2014) has shown the artist moving from vertical vessel forms to more complex works that are composed of various layers, creating colorful porcelain sculptures that refer to Chinese mountains and the ancient tradition of scholars’ rocks. This work hovers above the line of art and craft, drawing its power from both.
Scholars’ Rocks is the most common English name given to the small, individual stones that have been appreciated by educated and artistic Chinese at least since the Song dynasty (960-1270). They evolved from appreciation of the larger garden rocks, but their smaller size enabled the Chinese literati to carry them indoors where they could be admired and meditated over in their sparse studios.
Scholar’s Rocks (or Gongshi) began as stones that resembled or represented mythological and famous mountains, or even whole mountain ranges in China. Some are also appreciated simply for their dramatic form, their wondrous colors, or feelings they evoke from the viewer. Some Chinese literati and Taoist monks wanted to bring these mountains into their studios for meditation and contemplation while they wrote or painted. So smaller stones with the same qualities were found and initially received as gifts. They gained great favor among the literati and the Imperial court and have remained popular for over 1,000 years.
Haenen (born 1948), is a graduate of the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. The artist creates biomorphic ceramics, which employ her signature technique of forming with colored clays. Works by Haenen can be found in the permanent collections of museums including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam; Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Frans Hals Museum; Hetjens Museum; Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shigaraki; Cooper-Hewitt Museum and Museum of Art and Design, New York; Museum of Fine Art, Houston; Museum of Fine Art, Boston and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Above image: Babs Haenen, Desert Blues II, porcelain, 44 x 32 x 31cm. Photograph courtesy of the gallery.
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