Hans Demeulenaere & Dimitri Vangrunderbeek
The content of this book represents the intermediary results of an ongoing collaboration between the authors, artists Hans Demeulenaere and Dimitri Vangrunderbeek. In the autumn of 2019, Demeulenaere and Vangrunderbeek visited the concrete sculpture ‘Sylvette’, a public work located in the famous Rotterdam Museum Park. In 1971, the Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjar created the sculpture after a design by Pablo Picasso. Picasso started from a gouache that he cut out and folded, such that the paper could stand up on its own.
The city of Rotterdam had originally commissioned the concrete artwork in 1963, but due to the protests of local residents, it would be eight years before it could eventually be finished. The technique that characterises this work was also a source of criticism. Critics viewed ‘Sylvette’ as being too much of a flat line drawing unfolded into space, rather than an autonomous sculpture that completely dominates the space around it. In 2003 it was moved from its original place, finding a new home on the Westersingel in the neighbourhood of the Museum Park.
It was the sculpture’s transformation – from the two-dimensional design, by means of a few simple acts, to the three-dimensional model and subsequently into a monument – that interested Demeulenaere and Vangrunderbeek. After visiting
the sculpture in-situ, it was clear to them that the sculpture itself, its origin, its particular history and present context, provided enough content to establish a collaborative research project.
The artists agreed to start an email conversation entitled ‘Promenade (circulaire)’. The dialogue developed through imagery and text, the artists responding to each other in turn. Out of their correspondence, which comprised new images and reflections on each other’s contributions, a circular movement arose. In some cases the dialogue remained close to ‘Sylvette’, while in other cases the artists wandered from the original topic and turned to the pleasure of reflecting on their specific domains of knowledge, without reaching a definite conclusion.
Both the video ‘Sylvette’ and the conversation ‘Promenade (circulaire)’ were part of the exhibition ‘verloren voorwerpen - objets trouvés’ (March 2020), curated by Bert Puype. This dialogue is now reflected in the form of a book, which has been realised as part of a subsequent collaborative project between the two artists.
photography by Tomas Uyttendaele