The simplicity of these monumental works can be misleading. Vergouwen strives to achieve balance between all possible aspects: between closed and open, thick and thin, big and small, horizontal and vertical, round and straight, full and void. Characteristic for her work is the way she draws attention to what is not there. The open space plays as significant a role as the solid masses and there is a dynamic tension between the visible and non-visible forms. Little openings in the works not only reflect the surroundings but also let light in. As some surfaces light up and others remain in the shadows, depending on the position of the sun the structure is continually exposed to different highlights.
The way the open and closed forms interact with each other also evokes emotions. Where broad lines converge, a feeling of being overwhelmed or oppressed may be summoned, while the openness in other parts feels liberating. Throughout the work you can sense a real peacefulness; the result of Vergouwen’s constant striving for a perfect balance.
The display case by the patio shows how Vergouwen finds her inspiration in buildings, floor plans, interiors, everything, in short, in which she can discover an interesting geometric composition. She translates the quick notes in her pocket sketchbook to a drawing with more details, and then into a scale model, which she sculpts in weathering steel in a large format.
COR-TEN steel is Vergouwen’s favourite material. It can withstand the elements, but time continues to etch new structures and lines onto the rough surface. Due to the physical force required to work with it, steel is seen as a typically masculine medium. Vergouwen has always resisted that stigma, however. She sees the smelting, welding and bending as the core of the making process.
‘I’m not making what I know, but what I don’t know. With shapes that are slightly alienating, that are not simple to interpret and therefore also come to me as a surprise.’ – Helen Vergouwen
For Project Beeldplaats, the museum courtyard is transformed into a sculpture garden for six months. There will be various editions, each showcasing a sculptor from the region and their work. The museum is offering a platform to artists with an accomplished oeuvre. Last year, the Niels Lous – Denkbeelden exhibition was part of this series of museum courtyard sculpture exhibitions.
About Helen Vergouwen
Helen Vergouwen trained as a sculptor at the Breda St Joost School of Art & Design from 1984 to 1990. She is attracted to the minimalist work of Richard Deacon, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, among others, and to the abstraction of painters such as Mark Rothko and Piet Mondriaan. She has also explored Ad Dekkers’ geometric design language. Vergouwen is particularly interested in the ‘skin’ of the materials that she works with. Her graduation work consisted of cardboard sculptures that she painted with thin layers of oil paint, again and again until she was satisfied with the skin of the object. During her academy days Vergouwen lived in Gorinchem, where she worked together with the painter Arie Brinkman. She made his statement ‘A work of art represents nothing, it represents only itself’ her motto.
The fact that her sculptures really come into their own in the open air is why Vergouwen chooses to only work in COR-TEN steel. In addition to being featured as permanent exhibits in public spaces, her steel sculptures can also regularly be seen at exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad. Over the years she has built up an impressive oeuvre. With her work she proves that it is possible to work with a self-imposed limitation on materials, styles and shapes, and still continue to evolve and surprise.