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.
Thirty years ago Harmen Brethouwer set himself on a meandering journey through the history of art and culture. His 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, Brethouwer’s timetable on the other hand is open ended. 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, the artist processes his impressions himself. This takes place on two model forms specially designed for the purpose, a cone-shaped spatial object and a square wall panel. This setup creates a critical gap between the subject and the form in which it is presented. The artist uses this void to articulate a highly personalized ‘canon’ of art.
Teio Meedendorp expands in On Superfluous Things: “ One glance at Harmen Brethouwer’s collected works shows us that in his choice of materials the artist, besides using traditional materials like paint, bronze and earthenware, regularly exhibits a predilection for exclusiveness and exoticism, in his use of tortoiseshell, malachite, ray skin and mother-of-pearl, for instance. For the production of his art works and the working of the materials he regularly calls in the help of specialists in handicrafts that are becoming quite scarce, such as filigree work and marble imitation, or the help of technical and biological scientists who use their specialist knowledge and equipment in order to assess the feasibility of an experiment.”
A comprehensive overview of the works in this exhibition will be presented in our online showroom.
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