Mudam Luxembourg


    In response to Mudam Luxembourg.
   2017, 53 x 55 x 51 cm

   As I take my ticket at the entrance, I see a famous person walking by. “Hey, hello Tony Cragg!” He comes over to me and we shake hands. He asks for my name and we get into conversation. I tell him we are colleagues and we talk about his work that I have seen in several museums during this search for picturing museums; his Archimedes Screw, the crooked Sint-Janskathedraal (St. John's Cathedral), Envelope and other statues.
Talking, we walk into the big central space. Hard shadow lines of sunlight through the many windows stretch along the hardstone light floor and three stately high statues, ‘Points of View’ from 2015 are four-and-a-half feet high pillars. They are smoothly finished twisted abstracts, perhaps formed by the wind for centuries, eroded into whimsical shapes. Dark blue. The Turner Prize winner and I go and look at another work. An orange metal abstract image with scuffed grey and white patches. It must be two by three meters, with the middle visible between an organic vegetable shape and a sheaf of paper (Photo 2).
In a large hall are abstract monumental plastics, coloured, made of polyester, a shape composed of large light green funnels, organic images of aluminum and bronze, amber, dark red or almost black. Only the largest image is not coloured, it is made of plywood. You see the layers of wood rising fifteen feet up in a rocky formation. Everything is rounded again, as if eroded by water. You will know the rock formations as you see them in rivers in the south of France, with grottos and various sizes of round and hollow forms, repetitive but not too rhythmic, but in an accountable composition. Yet, these images are more stylized as a construction and less random, you could even say ‘composed’. Here and there winding shapes run parallel. All the statues have that organic and futuristic feel, although they have little to do with futurism. Most works are from recent years. (Photo 3 and 4) After a brief introduction by an employee of the museum, Tony begins his lecture. He talks first about his youth and that he worked in a ‘smelly lab’. Soon, his interest in materials and matter becomes evident. Because he spent many hours there, he also began drawing. At the art academy he was able to work with all kinds of materials and his field of study therefore became sculpture. His interest was, in the first instance, not so much the creation of an image, but more relevant to the materials themselves. Tony knows how to create an atmosphere by saying that, when he showed a piece of work to his teachers for the first time, they shook their heads and said, “Whatever it is, it’s not a sculpture.” The lecture takes one hour. As I see the lights on the way back in the car in the dark, I hear Tony Cragg talk about clay two meters below the ground and the farmers who have ridden over it for years. “One day you dig it out and lay the lump of clay on your workbench in your studio. You pull and push it about. You work it and then go to lunch for a while. Eventually people are watching. What started as a meaningless piece of clay gives them an idea that they can think it is beautiful and be touched by it. That’s what it is all about.”
The next morning, after we come back from Luxembourg, I get some clay. I put the six packs on the table and let it happen. If the clay still needs a finishing touch, please say it kindly to me. May 5 is Liberation Day and Joyce Bloem organised a ‘Tour de Waal’ with other artists, with liberation campfires and stone ovens along the river Waal. With Ad Arma, Willem Steenbeek and Eduard Gerrits we build a field oven, which I want to use as a kiln. Willem is the oven master, he puts the clay items in a thick layer of sawdust like a nest, and fills it up with foliage, small twigs and more small pieces of wood. (Photo 5 and 6) On May 5, around midnight, a walking group starts at Wageningen, reaching our wood pile at five o'clock in the morning and they light the liberation fire (Photo 7). An hour and a half later, we lay grass turfs on top of the fire until it is a big steaming pile (8). From left to right: Eduard Gerrits, Willem Steenbeek, Jos Bregman (watching) and Ad Arma (9). Whenever holes appear in the fire, we lay new turfs on top again. The pile slowly collapses. Finally, the turfs are finished and we let the fire burn openly (10). It takes three days before the pile has subsided and cooled down a little. We camp there, taking turns, eat pizza and chips, have a few drinks, eat waffles on a campfire for breakfast and have a very pleasant time. We dismantle the stack very slowly (11).