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Anne-Marie van Sprang

In rippling water,
the statue occupies more space

 In Façade’s latest edition, in 2017, Anne-Marie van Sprang’s statue was mirrored in the semicircular Prins Hendrikdok at the Dam in Middelburg. Now, To Reflect is being shown again. This time, it is placed in the basin of the Herengracht canal

The reason her statue was selected again: Anne-Marie van Sprang: “I made the statue in 2017,  on the occasion of that year’s theme Face your Freedom: reflecting on the freedom we live in. At that time, this was urgent, and it seems even more urgent nowadays. In 2017, man was central;  it was about turning vulnerability into strength. That is what I am aiming for in all my artwork. To me, the four freedoms  are interconnected, and, fortunately, have been so all my life.”

Van Sprang thinks that Frits de Coninck’s characterization of the piece of art, which he wrote for Façade 2017, strikingly describes what she aims for with her work: “The statue To Reflect has no clear boundaries. Actually, there is no line between statue and reflection. They are merging . A statue called To Reflect cannot exist without its reflection. Equally smoothly, this statue moves between sculpture and drawing. The graceful, hieratic human figure has been abstracted to an elegant line, slinging in space. The statue is rather line than volume, rather concept than physical mass. It seems to escape gravity, it seems to disengage from all things too earthly in order to live on as a concept. This graphic statue is a shape becoming a concept.

What we see is a human figure with gracefully swaying arms. It holds mirrors in both hands. One is being pointed at the outside world. In the other, the figure sees itself: ,,Not in the sense of ‘who is the fairest of them all’, but rather as a confrontation. It is a metaphorical mirror. The figure reflects on itself. This can be seen in athletes, who are working on both body and mind. Before they give their opinion, they focus. They do not blurt out anything that comes to mind. They know themselves. And when you get to know yourself better, you automatically become milder. Self-knowledge creates more nuance.”

The abstracted human figure  –measuring 2.25 meters high and 1.60 meters wide– is made of bronze. As it is patinated white and since Anne-Marie often works with porcelain, she has quite often been asked if the statue was made from this material. “Yes, even people with knowledge of art thought so. But porcelain is not suitable for a statue of this size. It has amazingly unique characteristics. You start working with it in good spirits, and after a couple of hours you realize: of course, the porcelain has demands as well. That is something I do not experience with any other material. In the oven, it shrinks on all sides; putting it strongly, it is as if porcelain becomes liquid.”

Because of its shape and the color white, the artist feels that the Façade statue -although it is much  larger- resembles the works that usually leave her studio . “I often make porcelain statues no larger than a hand. While entering, you see something, but can’t yet discern what it is. It does not immediately reveal itself. For this statue, it is exactly the same. From a distance, you cannot tell what it depicts. Only on a slow and thoughtful approach, when you take a step back, does it show itself.”

Van Sprang on the re-placement of the statue: “The dock was a marvelous place. What will the Herengracht bring? I don’t know.  It remains unclear until the statue has been placed and I can walk around there. I could never have guessed that people would still be able to see the statue, even after it had been removed from the dock. To an artist, this is the most beautiful thing that can happen: that people are impressed by a statue and will remember it. I hope this will happen in the Herengracht as well, and that it can stay there if it turns out to be a success.”

Since there is a 20 cm water level fluctuation in the canal, the statue rests on a second, reversed pedestal. This makes it seem like there is a statue underwater that keeps the other one above the water. Water is essential to the whole thing; it is for good reason that it is called To Reflect: ,”When there is a ripple in the water, the statue occupies more space. In windless weather, the reflection is totally different. A white statue cannot hide anything. Depending on the light, shadows changing in density temporarily leave marks on the statue.”

Anne-Marie van Sprang  (Utrecht, 1960) lives and works in Middelburg. She was educated at Enschede Academy of Art and Design (nowadays ArtEZ) from 1983-1986 and at Maastricht Van Eyck Academy (1986-1988).  She exhibits both nationally and internationally; from Middelburg to The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Venlo and Leeuwarden, and from Faenza International Museum of Ceramics (Italy) to the Korean International Ceramic Biennale. Her art has been included in the collections of, amongst others, Leeuwarden Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, The Hague Museum Beelden aan Zee and the European Ceramic Workcentre in Den Bosch.

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