29 Apr – 5 Jun 2021
Hidde van Seggelen is pleased to present the exhibition "Meanderlust" by Dutch artist Harmen Brethouwer.
Since the early nineties Brethouwer has confined himself to working in two formats: the panel and the cone. The frequently venerated focal point of his wall-based panels is the hole, by which they are hung. And with an air of ceremony, the cone - resembling ancient menhirs - are repeatedly elevated and modelled. These forms began as an attempt to transcend every art-form that could ever exist: now the forms themselves have become iconic. To date Brethouwer has identified 12 working groups in which he reflects on concepts of art and craft, architecture, the history of art, and the history of making.
In his choice of materials, besides using traditional materials like paint, bronze and earthenware, he regularly exhibits a predilection for exclusiveness and exoticism, in his use of tortoiseshell, malachite, ray skin and mother-of-pearl. However laborious and time-consuming the processes used in the making of his objects may be at times, they are always based on an exceptional story. A good example of this is the work Looking for Dragon Droppings, 2012 in which Brethouwer presents altered Chinese mythology. Through the association of an existing story and the help of professional crafts people (at the now defunct Royal Tichelaar) the spectator is presented a twisted Asian narrative based on the Western tradition of the Easter Egg Hunt.
The word "meander" recalls the twisting and turning path of the river Maeander in Asia Minor. As the cultural scientist Karl Kerenyi pointed out, in Greek mythology, the meander is the figure of a labyrinth in linear form. The significance of the meander motif may well stem from the way in which the linear motion continually returns onto itself, so that at every point it almost touches where it was a moment before. Moving along a meander means that from the position of the present, the past, for an extended period of time, keeps in sight, what's more, with every turn the meander offers a different perspective on the past. Kerenyi notes that it is a confusing path, hard to follow, yet the movement of the meander is progressive.
Brethouwer's project can be compared to a 'Bildungsreise', or a Grand Tour, as was customary in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the difference that his itinerary is not predetermined, nor will it lead along the beaten track of art history. The avarage person would have completed his or her Tour in several months, whilst Brethouwer's timetable (he rarely travels) on the other hand is open ended and is not confined just to Europe. Just like the original 'tourists', he collects 'souvenirs' of what he encounters on the stages of his journey. But, where the amateur is satisfied with buying into the ready-made versions of the various art movements, Brethouwer processes his impressions himself.
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