Solo Exhibition Gijs Assmann | Foreshadowing

A stream of associations, sensuality, and symbolism
Gijs Assmann juggles with materials and stories. He seduces the senses with images of blown glass and glazed ceramics. Together with watercolours in flowing colours, they stir up a flow of associations. Human figures in acrobatic poses play a leading role. They stretch out on paper and in the space around them, make a dance move or form a stage for each other: a man curves his body into an arch of desire; a woman towers over him.

Elsewhere, a woman raises two balloons, as if weighing her happiness. She herself looms up like a blonde cloud on the white paper; almost a vision that you fear will disintegrate or explode as soon as you look away. In his exhibition Foreshadowing, Assmann creates encounters between the mystical and the everyday. He shows Madonna sculptures with flowing contours of mirror glass. His work is filled with sensuality and symbolism: a glimpse of paradise, but also a painful awareness of temporality.

In addition to male and female figures evoking an intoxication of feelings and thoughts, Assmann’s objects and animals flow into one another. Knives and forks dance together; a bird rises from a high-heeled shoe. These dynamics have a concentrated poetic force: intriguing like bottle mail, mysterious like a relic. In the centre of the room stands the monumental sculpture Ode to Mandela, in which Assmann brings everything together.

It’s a cross between two human figures with heads of blue glass, who pierce each other’s bodies (a wooden trunk goes straight through a body like a battering ram) and yet also keep each other upright. It shows a mixture of violence and reconciliation, unity and duality, heroism and martyrdom.

(c) Gijs Assmann, Raakvlak (VI), 2017

Everything is a balancing act, or, as Assmann says: “Gravity is a permanent partner for artists, especially for sculptors. I combine heavy and light materials, which involuntarily merge into a balanced composition, with heavy and light themes. The interplay of lines from Mondrian’s horizontals and verticals comes through, but the complexity of group portraits from traditional painting is also a source of inspiration.

The balancing act has not only a formal or material side. It also takes on a mental dimension. Pathetically, I think that our happiness depends on the interaction with the other. And I create a physical experience of that. It’s about connections and accumulation; the play and the struggle from person to person. Where do we touch each other? I want to portray that connection with our emotions and with life itself.”

Foreshadowing is a multifaceted selection of artworks that Assmann has made over the past two years. The individual collages and sculptures complement each other as if in one multimedia staging. Everywhere, vehicles such as hot air balloons and ships come into view, which give momentum to the imagination. They create a link to the outside world, the Scheepvaartkwartier where Roof-A is located, and stimulate the desire to travel to distant horizons, to float away or to take off. A ship, soaked in pink glaze and built like a toy boat from tin cans and bottles, embodies a wet desire. You feel like wanting to move along with the lithe protagonists of Assmann’s work, who balance between physical sensuality and mental concentration, as in a crystal-clear dream.

Text by Wilma Sütö