Tribute to André van der Louw - Herman Lamers

Sandra Smets 21.11.2015
Ernst Moritz

It was a complex assignment: design a monument in memory of former mayor André van der Louw for the Timmerhuis. Complex, because artist Herman Lamers only starts each performance after a thorough analysis. He encountered the problematic question of who or what exactly had to be remembered. Do the clients (friends and party members of Van der Louw) mainly want to honor politics, a party, leftist traditions, or indeed this person and if so in what sense or function?

Lamers' work always focuses on a specific question and location. The human encounter is central, without this leading to an entertaining or pleasant result. Abstraction, realism and poetry go together in the choice of form and material. Anyone who sees him as a sculptor through that often figurative approach is mistaken. Lamers is a conceptual and spatial artist for whom parable is not the goal, but a means of communication: figuration invites rather than abstraction to be able to read a work of art. And certainly when a work of art contains several layers of meaning, accessibility is a welcome step towards more understanding. Moreover, by combining this recognisability with cuddly-looking materials - glass, wood, plastic, bronze with different patinas - Lamers' work provokes a physical approach. He wants involvement in an image, only then does a relationship arise. He does not find beautiful picture art interesting.

Our approach

More than thirty years ago, Lamers started his artistry with large spatial installations in vacant buildings. Since then, his work has been about the environment, for which he designs surprising visual comments. For an atrium in the AMC in Amsterdam, he designed a constellation of abstract library walls based on digital searches. In Rotterdam he designed hippopotamus heads for a quiet pond in Beverwaard that pop up through a mechanism and disappear under water.

Be in the center Giant of Rotterdam. This image is life-size, which in itself does not stand out because statues are always slightly more than life-size. To make the scale tangible, Lamers designed an installation with a stage that invites you to enter, take a seat next to the giant, see his furniture and shoes, and thus realize the difference in size in this contact. It is through this context that the sculpture functions.

Because Lamers manages to complete complex assignments through figuration and communication, he has three assignments in 2015 through the CBK Rotterdam. For an intervention on Diergaardeplein, he seduced a multi-voiced client consisting of neighborhood parties with an accessible design: four poles with nests on them, one of them nesting a zebra. Beneath the cheerful appearance is a reference to the disappeared zoo from which zebras and sea lions fled into the city during the bombing of 1940. He also develops a drawing for the Timmerhuis, based on his design ideas for an image by Van der Louw. At an earlier stage, he had suggested a portrait drawing of the former mayor in front of the wall where the old and new Timmerhuis meet. He also proposed to Van der Louw to position an imaginary bridge, which he presented in LED form. The idea was rejected for a work about Van der Louw, but it appealed to the architects of OMA in such a way that it was released, and so led to a second assignment for the Timmerhuis.

Performance

Abstract or figurative, all Lamers' works are primarily about communication. He makes them with the reception of the viewer in mind: environment, presence or absence of a pedestal, knowledge from art history, everything contributes to how we experience art. The question of what figuration can mean today is a complex one, certainly with a political image. Politics is not free from vanity and certainly left-wing politics used art as a means of power last century. Nevertheless, Lamers also opted for figuration at Van der Louw because this work is about meeting the other, the other - that works through representation. The coherence with the location listens closely and prevents the image from becoming a magnitude symbol. Lamers' choice fell on a window on the first floor above an interior space. Van der Louw will be placed there as if he were one of the officials walking around. Slightly bent, he looks down through the window. You can walk past him and touch him, but not look into the distracted face. From the bottom it is the other way around: you cannot approach it physically, but you can look into the eyes.

All in all, the image is an intriguing result for Van der Louw in an unexpected place. Designed for and with the location, the image can only function there, in that sense incomparable with the classical bronze figuration to which Lamers refers. With all perspectives, the work of art contains different layers of meaning, while despite that complexity it looks approachable above all else. In this way, Lamers hopes that spectators will experience the work on different levels. And to emphasize that the view of a work of art is not clear, Lamers had Atelier Lek design a lighting plan. Due to changing lighting, the image sometimes seems more like a silhouette, then more sculpturally. Our perception is never certain.

Related artwork

Tribute to André van der Louw (2015) Herman Lamers