2017 Marc Ruyters – On Looking Back in Silence

Maen Florin’s sculptures would appear to want to remain silent; often they have their eyes closed or looking off to the side, pretending not to see you. Once you’ve noticed this, you inevitably come to the conclusion that her works are ‘anthropomorphic’. They have human traits, but also some ‘inhuman’ ones; they usually have strange physical shapes – large ears, long noses, twisted mouths, closed eyes, misshapen limbs and crooked torsos… The figures stem from less cheerful fairy tales, uncomfortable dreams and mild nightmares.

The sculptures were made from clay, various fabrics, plaster, epoxy glue, polyurethane, and in the past years more frequently of ceramics. They are presented on the floor, on plinths or on tables and appear to stare blankly ahead, murmuring soundlessly, with an unidentifiable disinterest for the viewer, meaning you and me. The sculptures are down to earth, their size doesn’t create an earthshattering impact, there is no aestheticizing hedonism, nor is there any Hollywood-style machismo or horror. The figures remain humanoid, such as we might see when we step out of our comfort zone and observe what’s failing with an existential unrest. Often the sculptures are painted, as though the colours should evoke a inner (un) rest. Or maybe it camouflages it.

The work of Maen Florin has been previously discussed: her sculptures balance between humour and tragedy, between happy and macabre, between silence and noise, between resignation and aggression, between dream and nightmare, and we could go on creating duo’s of opposites. But one effect is present throughout: mental camouflage. Nothing is what it seems. The sculptures – bodies and heads – don’t reveal themselves easily, they hide. They project your own (un) rest. You see what it is you (don’t) want to see, in an imaginary reflection.

When comparing the work of Maen Florin to that of other contemporary artist, we end up somewhere in the twilight zone between the deafening silence of Juan Muñoz and the noiseless clamor of Paul McCarthy. In the end, what does a strong sculpture achieve? It looks back at the viewer and creates a reaction. But it doesn’t answer, it remains silent and waiting, endlessly if it has to. Looking at the sculptures of Maen Florin is like waiting for something that will never come. The speechlessness is considerably overwhelming.

Marc Ruyters
February 2017