The dog is
Just try it: working with 600 kg of clay to mould the shape of a dog lying down. That is, you might say, physical work. Warre Mulder still remembers it vividly. “It was a voyage of discovery,” he says, “I had to hit it with a plank in order to get the right shapes.”
Now, the dog is floating in the round pond of the Molenwaterpark in a 1.80m diameter basket. There are apples in the basket. ‘Stowaway Nehalennia’s dog’, is the installations title. Dog, basket, apples: we know the altars of the native goddess Nehalennia, that have shown up in Domburg and Colijnsplaat. As a patron saint, she was often depicted in Roman times with a basket of fruit on her lap and a dog at her feet. Traders donated the altars to the temple dedicated to her after a safe passage to England. This was in the second and third centuries after Christ. Warre Mulder: “The dog is a symbol of loyalty. You can also think of the docile citizen who has confidence in public authorities. The basket of apples symbolises wealth. In my installation, the dog lies a bit like a stowaway between the apples. As if a disaster had happened and the dog just managed to get on the raft. I’ve added elements that are meaningful to me, such as the house of cards that can be seen behind the dog.”
How he came up with the idea for his installation? “I had seen the altarpieces of Nehalennia in the Zeeuws Museum. It is sad that a patron saint of sailors has disappeared under water. That is the history of Zeeland: under water, above water. This idea was my starting point. Façade’s theme is ‘Freedom From Fear’: as a citizen, you can live without fear of the water. I think that’s a good theme. When I moved from Antwerp to Hengstdijk (Zeelandic Flanders) in 2015, I was told by many Belgians: ‘let’s hope there’s not flood there.’ That fear hangs over our heads, which brings us to Nehalennia. Because, you know, most people trust the government with all its Delta plans, and yet, last year there were the floods in Limburg and Wallonia.”
Warre Mulder’s parents are Dutch and came to Antwerp in the 1970s. Warre was born in Borgerhout. Today he lives, just like his parents, in Zeelandic Flanders. A Dutch Belgian? A Belgian Dutchman? “It doesn’t matter,” he says. “Now I feel at home in Zeelandic Flanders. The old village school we live in and the surroundings are inspiring.” As an artist, he works with wood and ceramics a lot . He creates colourful sculptures that appear to have come from an absurd world: mythical creatures, human figures, animals, plants and objects. They are hybrid sculptures that may have elements of archetypes, ancestral images, watchmen and messengers.
As he had not made many works for public places yet , the commission for Façade was a challenge. The entire object is made of plastic that was cast in a silicone mould. The outer layer is transparent. Warre Mulder: “It’s transparent for a reason. Here, at Walsoorden, there is a beach upon which a lot of material washes ashore: oyster shells, shards and complete bricks. I have incorporated that material in the outer layer. The fossils and stones in the edge give the sculpture a marble or granite-like appearance. Unlike an altar for Nehalennia, but in that same character. Just depicting an idea isn’t sufficient for me. That’s why I haven’t made a realistic dog. It’s a dog that has sprung from my very own hands.”
Warre Mulder (Borgerhout, 1984) graduated from his Master in Fine Arts at Campus Sint Lucas Antwerp, department of Karel de Grote University of Applied Sciences and Art in 2008. In 2015, he and his family moved from Antwerp to Hengstdijk in Zeelandic Flanders, where he now lives and works in a former village school. His work refers to modernism, pop culture, and Greek and African masks. In recent years, he exhibited in Zeeland and Belgium, as well as in, among other places, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Colchester, Vienna and Copenhagen. Since 2009, he has been teaching in part-time education in Belgium, and since 2014 he has been a lecturer in sculpture at the Academy of Hoogstraten.