Hans van Bentem
With a child’s eye…
‘Monumental’ is the word that most accurately describes Hans van Bentem ’s thinking and work. However, capturing him with one word does him a disservice – ‘creative’, ‘inquisitive’, energetic’, but above all, ‘innovative’ come to mind when the observer is confronted with his creations.
A preference for the monumental came early in Van Bentem ’s career. Initially he started out as a painter of grand murals. During his education, his work gradually became more spatial and three dimensional, but it was only after he started working with ceramics that Van Bentem made a discovery. Creating sculpture was like painting in three dimensions, developing spatial form where color and clay became one. A sculptor was born.
Van Bentem ’s ‘thinking big’ is seen in his technique. Most of his sculptures are huge-- reaching up to the heavens. The starting point is a massive heap of clay that he throws and pounds into a shape. The second stage is the molding, the insertion of the fine details and removal of the excess material. But these steps are only a prelude to the most challenging one--the sculpture must be broken to be hollowed out, and the pieces need to be dried and glazed over and over again. At the end of the process the sculpture can be pieced together. This recreation phase requires a lot of contemplation, effort and sometimes changes from the original ‘blueprint’. Van Bentem ’s focus is to create a beautiful interplay between the underlying lines. This interplay makes the sculpture unique and captivating at the same time.
‘Art in parks, public spaces or just on the street,’ is what Van Bentem is after. ‘Sculpture for the crowds’ gives people the chance to touch his work and be touched by it. Van Bentem is not only captivated by the craftsmanship needed to work with ceramics but also by the eternal quality of this medium.
The beauty of his work is his almost childlike notion of the surrounding world. His vision is always fresh, playful and full of wonder. His work is realistic yet also cartoonish, sometimes erotic and even fairy tale like. Van Bentem does not like to be pinned down. He uses all aspects of the kaleidoscopic cosmos—whether it is art history archetypes, pop culture icons or pure fantasy figures. These figments of his imagination never stop amazing the viewer. The sheer joy that lies in his creations pulls people to his work. The delightfulness is born of contradiction- those seemingly hard surfaces have ‘touching’ qualities.
Van Bentem is a multifaceted artist. Although best known for his colorful ceramic sculptures, he also finds time to work with other media, including glass, crystal and porcelain. He does not fear challenges. His endeavors take him all over the world, from the Czech Republic for his glass work and chandeliers, to China for his porcelain series. The common thread in his work is the ‘bigger than life’ proportions. No matter whether pieces are commissioned or autonomous work; they will always be bold and impressive. With his latest passion--bronze sculpture--Van Bentem continues to play with his boundaries - in literal and figurative terms.
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