Sporen van wetenschap in de kunst

Sporen van wetenschap in de kunst
Tentoonstelling in het Trippenhuis, 1998
Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen

Please check back later for an English translation

Wim Beeren

Homage to doctors and nurses

West Frisian Guesthouse in Hoorn, 2004
Organization Art in Public Areas

The visitor who walks in the lobby of the hospital towards a view of the gardens, comes face to face with two life-size bronze ungulates. Near the window is a cow trying to climb out of a pool. Behind it is sheep watching on top of a hill. The sheep has horns of polished aluminum, the ox of polished brass. The gleaming horns contrasts sharply with the dull, dark stained bronze. This gives the animals a supernatural aura, which is reinforced at night by the lighting on the horns. Famke van Wijk has named this work “Sending the Spirit of Compassion.” The sheep on the hill ensures that the ox arrives safely on the shore,” the artist writes in her notes.

The sheep is a Racka scheep, a particularly sheep with beautiful helical and outstanding horns that once was common from Mesopotamia to Hungary, but now it is threatened with extinction. A couple are still grazing on a dike at Scharwoude, not far from Hoorn. The name of this breed of sheep reminds the artist of an ancient Greek word for contempt and taunting. She sees a reference to the “Lamb of God”, to Jesus, who was mocked for his evangelical message. Jesus sacrificed himself to bring spiritual salvation. Healthcare also requires sacrifice; it is about helping people in a physical sense but also in solidarity. This message is also depicted in the relief which spirals around the horns of the ox and on the frieze on Trajan’s Column. Instead of triumphant Romans and conquered tribes we see a procession of people who reach hands to each other. “Christ is also called Healer,” says Famke van Wijk. “With that in mind, this piece of art is a tribute to doctors and nurses and at the same time a reminder of their commitment to work for their neighbours.”

The Hague artist Famke van Wijk (1972) received her education at the AKI Academy of Fine Arts & Design in Enschede. She completed further training in Nice, Amsterdam and Delphi. She creates emblematic sculptures and installations from metals and plastics.

As a religious person she seeks symbolism to represent holiness. In the material reality of the sculptural objects she always tries to envisions her ideas about the immaterial world. She is influenced by psalmists, Church Fathers, scholars, philosophers and esoteric writers.

The client was delighted with the design and worked hard to enable the realization. In the secluded inner courtyard is a nice place was found. From a distance, the strong spatial impact of the image strikes a chord; up close the fine Model and rich detailing intrigues. The art committee, who had a preference for a stand-alone and symbolic artwork, felt strongly attracted by the quality of the craftsmanship and the narratively allegorical approach of Famke van Wijk. The artist in turn was given a chance and the opportunity to stay very close to her own ‘free’ ideas.

Govert Grosfeld


Spinoza – Visual exploration inspired by Benedictus de Spinoza

Exposition in Arti et Amicitae, Amsterdam 1997

When Famke van Wijk creates a work, she wants it to be about we and us. She makes art with an attitude which gives priority to the common good and, with her objects and installations, tries to appeal to universal, generally applicable values. This process is catalyzed by questions such as What is life’, What is the nature of God’ and What is justice’.

One element in Spinoza’s main work, the Ethics, which Van Wijk finds striking is Proposition 48 in part II: ‘ln the mind there is no absolute, or free will. The mind is determined to this or that volition by a cause, which is likewise determined by another cause, and this again by another, and so ad infinitum.’ How do you deal with the compelling question of the nature of free will? Van Wijk’s own view of this is: ‘My free will is to choose for God, and as an inescapable, necessary consequence of this to live in the Nature of His will, because knowledge means ordering thoughts according to the nature of things.’

Since her time at the academy Van Wijk has been studying texts by prophets, poets, medieval scholars, humanistic philosophers and the psalmists. Stored memories of texts seek their form in images. Coincidental features arise, but that doesn’t prevent Van Wijk from exerting a form of control: are the conceived links ‘good’, is there no ‘contradiction’? Subsequently she searches for a ‘justification’ of the works in the writings.

The field of the intuition may, for Van Wijk, correspond with the true nature of humanity, but in the end the ideas within the image should also interact in a ‘reasonable’ way. And indeed, she lays emphasis on the work as the carrier of a message. ‘For me the sculptural aspect is an element of content. All material is spiritual.’

Van Wijk has a personal vision of the Ethics which she interprets as a scientific explanation of the Bible. What Spinoza argues in a mathematical way with the power of reason, the Bible tells in symbols which appeal to the imagination. This is why the latter text is ultimately her greatest point of reference, but she experiences both books as a stimulus to become aware of one’s own thinking. ‘You have to be able to distinguish between literal and figurative things, as you need to be able to distinguish between good and evil. There’s a whole lot of facts in the Bible… if you belief them.’ (Ephesians 6, 10-17)

In the work of Famke van Wijk the objects have become ‘attributes of God’. The floor plan for the commissioned work has been adopted literally from the Ethics. In the work Spinoza indicates, with the help of a drawn circle, that this consists of separate parts which however would in turn not exist without the all-encompassing nature of the circle.1) In Van Wijk’s sculpture the circle functions as a platform onto which the individual ventures, walks around alone, but simultaneously finds himself within a greater scheme of things. And is confronted with the now-tangible, symbolic modes of God: Thought and Comprehensiveness. They have become objects for personal use’ which, clustered together on a key-chain, stand in mutual relation. You could take hold of them: the Christian two-edged sword, a pocket watch within which the projection of the phases of the impalpable moon appears, and a net for catching the intangible Substance. Famke attempts to visualize the totality of Spinoza’s philosophy. ‘When you read Spinoza you constantly place yourself within his world view. But within this installation you can determine your own position, and just as in the Ethics (if you read it carefully) you can create an open space in your mind which reveals the true freedom of the individual.’

One detail of the work is embodied by the sword: Van Wijk sensed this image after reading Spinoza’s description of the emotions as ‘bondage’. Only when all human emotions have been understood, when people manage to transform their passive emotions into active ones, is the way opened for a growing understanding of the self. This self-knowledge goes hand-in-hand with insight into the logical cohesion of the world and the place of man within this relationship, and according to Spinoza will eventually lead to a pure ‘intellectual love’ for all of existence. But a fierce moral battle needs to be fought before this blissful state can be attained.

‘What are you thinking?’ This question, which a pair in love will ask each other again and again, is put to the viewer indirectly but forcefully by Van Wijk. Her primary concern is not the imagination of the sculpture, but rather the imaginative process which the work stimulates in the viewer. As the material used is a means of creating the work, so the work itself is a means of awakening rational knowledge.

In your imagination, do you take up the sword to fight out all sorts of worldly issues, or have you already progressed far enough to elevate the concepts ofgood and evil above the level of personal utility? Does the key provide access to bliss.

The phases of the moon progress while you follow your thoughts. Time, which seems to play no role for Spinoza. His truth is subject neither to change, nor to development, but has its own existence. The progress of time is nothing more than an ‘indefinite continuation’ of existence.2) Famke: ‘According to Spinoza the use of reason can lead to the acquisition of immortality. So if you use your head…’

Famke van Wijk translates philosophy and theology into a charged, but clearly readable iconography. Her works are puzzles, rich in ideas, and relating to elementary concepts such as balance, point of reference and sense of justice. They are materialized, metaphysical and moral question marks which revolve like planets around a divine core. ‘The nice thing about Spinoza is that he looks at things from every angle. Within this structure you constantly have to preserve your own balance with your conscience and the central core.’

1) The nature of a circle is such that the rectangles formed form the segments of its intersecting chords are equal. Hence an infinite number of equal rectangles are contained in a circle, but none of them can be said to exist except in so far as the circle exists’. Ethics, II, Note on Proposition 8.

2) J.D. Bierens de Haan, Uren met Spinoza, Baarn 1913; p.8.

Tuin van Verbeelding 2000

Tuin van Verbeelding 2000

Exposition because of the 75th anniversary of the Von Gimborn Arboretum in Doorn.

Famke van Wijk is intuitively influenced by writings of church fathers, scholars, philosophers, esoteric writers, and perhaps above all by the Bible. However, this is not a literal or illustrative manner reflected in her work, but she always visualizes a highly personal metaphorical world. Her Christian faith is the driving force and she refers in her images to a transcendental and spiritual world. Famke van Wijk seems to tell us that the separation between the material and immaterial or the earthly and the heavenly, is relative.             This metaphysical character is also present in her statue for the Arboretum. The completely of aluminum casted sculpture represents an old trunk with above it surmounted a table with a wood structure which hovers 30cm above the ground. In the middle of the table, just above the hollow trunk, there is a hole, which is filled with water. The in the earth rooted tree could represent nature and man-made pieces as table standing in the clouds can be seen as an expression of culture. But with Famke van Wijk nothing is what it seems to be on a first impression.

The table is made after all of the same tree, and thus simultaneously a part of nature. There seems to be opposing forces: the upward virile power of the tree and the downward (gravity) force from the table. In the hole with the transparent red water, a symbol of the divine soul, these continually warring opposites reconcile (matter – mind, nature-culture, male-female and man-god). The cup with the same transparent ‘blood’ invites the visitor to participate in this cathartic process. The hole can also be taken as a wound, the table as an operation table or Eucharistic altar. The wounded tree that bears the table and elevates (and discards his physical function) might be a representation of the bond and suffering of Christ? The hole can also be viewed as a sense of sacrilege because it has revealed a mystery.”
Hestia Bavelaar

Beeldengallerij Den Haag

Beeldengallerij Den Haag

None of the other pedestals is so spiritual, and figurative in nature, as this statue by Famke van Wijk (1969). Nevertheless, there is no old religious statue in the Statue Gallery. However, this sculptor does not shun religion, nor figuration. Van Wijk has taken a bundle of light rays as a basis for her sculpture. Above the center of those rays, which symbolize the light of Christ, she placed a crown. A crown of people who are full of honor and worship awaiting the return of Christ on earth. This loving three-dimensional crown contrasts sharply with the two-dimensional crown-of-thorns, that Van Wijk carved as a fine line grading on the top of the pedestal. Thus, the sculptor shows us, between the rays, the response Christ received for his act of love.

Contradictions in material, such as the raw rays and the detailed angels, are characteristic of Van Wijk’s method. That her theme is mostly religious is related to her faith. Van Wijk is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as Mormons. “I work mainly from dreams, but faith is my real source of inspiration,” she said in an interview in the Stentor (30-3-2006).

That Van Wijk occupies a special position within contemporary Dutch sculpting also appears from the jury report at the Charlotte of Pallandt Prize, named after Holland’s most famous sculptor (1898-1997). In 2004 Van Wijk received this biennial award to encourage young sculpting talent. The jury ruled that “her work draws on stylistic, expressive and aesthetic categories that are known and familiar in this time. It makes you curious.”

When the statue became part of the Statue Gallery, in January 2011,  it was given a place opposite the Nieuwe Kerk on the Spui. A more appropriate place is not imaginable.

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