Henk Visch - Du Livre du Matin (2018) & Piazza del Popolo (2006)
With its grey-green colour and long, slender shape, the sculpture Du Livre du Matin by Henk Visch (b. Eindhoven, Netherlands, 1950, lives in Eindhoven and Berlin) did not immediately stand out among the trees. Up close, the visitor was confronted by a seriously flawed human figure. It is a poignant image. The figure barely seems able to keep its balance, the thin, armless torso twists around, seeking equilibrium, and the vulnerable face with its gaze turned to the sky seems lost. This sculpture is not an idol. It offers no solace. It appears to be looking for salvation itself. The association with the millions of refugees from Ukraine and the rest of the world is inevitable.
Visch started out as a draughtsman and graphic designer, but his sculptures caught the attention of the art world in the early 1980s. These are solid sculptures in wood, bronze and aluminium, but also delicate constructions, stylised human figures and mysterious assemblages made from a wide range of materials.
Visch’s human figures lack specific facial expressions; often they have no arms, and the legs or torso are stretched, sometimes resulting in apparently shaky poses. Standing and trying to find balance are important elements of his sculptural art, symbolising the notion of standing firmly on your own two feet.
Visch often provides his sculptures with poetic and enigmatic titles. The sculpture is not an illustration of the title, and the title does not offer any concrete interpretation of the work. In this way, sculpture and text work together, reinforcing each other. This is the case with Piazza del Popolo (2006), a second sculpture that Visch was exhibiting in GODHEAD. The title is a reference to the piazza in Rome, with two almost identical churches on one side and a large obelisk at its centre. Piazza del Popolo is known as the ‘People’s Piazza’, but ‘Popolo’ actually refers to the poplar trees that stood there in earlier times. Not only is this sculpture very dear to Visch, partly because of its architectural quality – the head depicts the round piazza, the limbs refer to the symmetry of the architecture – but he also considers it, in these times of increasing populism, a monument to democracy and human strength.