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Dutch sculptor Hanneke Beaumont depicts human psyche at Meijer Gardens

February 4, 2013
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Dutch sculptor Hanneke Beaumont depicts human psyche at Meijer Gardens exhibit
Dutch sculptor Hanneke Beaumont, who resides in Brussels and Italy, believes her work “has to speak for itself.” Courtesy Hanneke Beaumont

West Michigan has the opportunity to see the first major U.S. museum exhibition of renowned Dutch sculptor Hanneke Beaumont at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

The exhibit, “Connected and Disconnected: The Sculpture of Hanneke Beaumont,” is a retrospective. It features the Dutch artist’s “impressive fluency with materials as well as her command of the human figure,” according to the museum.

The works are done in terra cotta, bronze and iron, and the exhibit also features a select group of Beaumont’s large-scale drawings.

Two of her works are part of the Gardens’ permanent sculpture collection, and Beaumont said that visitors familiar with those bronze works will likely recognize similarities in the exhibit, which she said is really a continuation of what she has been doing previously.

The exhibit opened Feb. 1 and runs through April 28.

“I think what is more different from the time I made the two pieces that are in the Gardens is probably that I added a new material, which is cast iron,” Beaumont said. “You will see that here. There are a few pieces with the cast iron, which I didn’t do at the time, which is also a challenging material for the foundry.”

Beaumont explores a variety of themes in her work, some of which are grouped together. Themes include melancholy, courage and the universality of making tough decisions.

“Typically, themes that all people everywhere have to deal with once or another time in their life,” Beaumont said. “I think a lot of people will recognize some of the feelings that I try to express in my sculptures.”

Beaumont said she does not try to lead audiences toward any specific interpretation of her work, however.

“Basically, I think people should just walk in and look at the sculptures and interpret them the way that they like to interpret them,” she said. “I, in general, give a hint about what it is with the titles that I gave, but before that I never gave any titles.

"I always just gave numbers, she said. "It would be Bronze Number 25 or Number 26 or whatever, so that people could be completely free to interpret them the way they like to interpret them, and it’s been very nice that way.

“Sometimes, when I had some feedback, it was interesting to hear what they got out of it, and, sometimes, people exactly expressed it better in words even than I did, what they saw in the sculpture," Beaumont said. "I find — as a sculptor, as an artist — what you express in your work, it’s difficult to sometimes put into words. That is why I am a sculptor.

"I think it’s better to just leave it the way it is expressed in clay and leave the explaining to art critics or whatever," she said. "I think the people should just stand there and look upon it and feel whatever they feel, if they feel anything. The work has to speak for itself.”

Known for her ability to portray deep feelings and moods, her work generally achieves this goal.

“Although the history of Dutch art is dominated by painting and painters, Beaumont is one of the most celebrated Dutch sculptors working today,” said Joseph Becherer, vice president and chief curator of sculpture.

“As a figurative artist, Beaumont has created a figurative type, utilizing techniques that combine to suggest psychological penetration," he said. "Additionally, the portrayed mood of her evocative works are moving and memorable."

Beaumont is a Dutch artist who currently resides in Brussels and Italy.

At 18, she moved to the United States to study in Boston for two years. She later attended the académie de Braine l’Alleud and then focused on sculpture at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de La Cambre and at the Hogere Rijksschool voor Beeldende Kunsten in Anderlecht.

Her first solo exhibition took place in 1983 and was followed by several others. In 1994, she was recognized with the major award of the Centre International d’Art Contemporain Château Beychevelle for her sculpture group “Le Courage.” 

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