2018 Hans Martens – Paradox and ambiguity

Maen Florin’s most recent sculptures contain a paradox. The robust monumentality of the exaggeratedly large heads, combined with the fragility of ceramics and the subtly applied glazes, form a powerful field of tension. The heads are no portraits but more like archetypes. Perhaps they are better referred to as mugs rather than heads. In the beautiful arrangement in the Ter Beuken park in Lokeren we see a thin white head with protruding ears and bright red lips, an African type that looks as if it has been daubed white and a theatrical red head with painted eyelids. The eyes are closed or else they stare sightlessly ahead. The absence of any expressive gaze gives them a melancholy character.

The heads are presented on flat round concrete dishes. They resemble the platters on which Judith displayed the head of Holofernes, or Salome that of John the Baptist, two apocryphal tales from the Bible that are often depicted in art. The aggressive gesture of beheading is transcended however by the pictorial character of the glaze. The drip painting that spills down from the hair over the face also suggests blood, sweat or tears. The traces of the process of their creation literally overflow into motifs that generate meaning.

Ambiguity is a common feature of Maen Florin’s sculptures. The figures that adhere somewhat like orphans to the tree trunks are also not open to simple interpretation. In them Maen Florin combines expressive ceramic heads with ready-made mannequin torsos. One figure even literally turns his back on us as though it had a deeper bond with the tree than with the viewer. Figure and tree seem to become one.

In her most recent works Maen Florin would seem to be adding a new generation to her proliferating family of sculptures. Previously she made large heads (in polyester), but these ones in ceramics bring a new dimension, a sort of primal power that is indebted to the material of the oldest sculpture of all – namely earth. Unlike somewhat earlier work of hers – in which she combined her ceramic heads with everyday materials such as cardboard, polystyrene or plastic rollers – she now allows the power of ceramics and glazes to speak for themselves in monumental fashion.

Despite the silence of the sculptures, they appear to converge again in a mystical conversation. In Hof Ter Beuken in Lokeren this occurs in the first instance with nature.

Hans Martens
September 2018