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The Curious Image by Jeroen Verhoeven

Utilizing robots and the profiles of his two design companions, Jeroen Verhoeven presents his latest work at a British gallery.

By Katie Dominy / 12-05-2011

Artist and designer Jeroen Verhoeven shows his work for the first time in the UK at London gallery Blain|Southern.

Located in London’s West End, the gallery is launching two new pieces of Verhoeven‘s work: a desk, Lectori Salutem, 2010 and a chandelier, Virtue of Blue, 2010.

Both demonstrate the Dutch designer’s belief in creating design through a combination of highly-skilled craftsmanship and carefully-programmed technical processes.

Jeroen Verhoeven forms one third of Rotterdam-based studio Demakersvan (“The Makers of…”) set up with twin brother Joep Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw – the three met while studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven. The trio work on solo projects, but the other two always have an imput on each other's work – as you will see below.

Lectori Salutem, 2010 is a desk made from highly polished steel. Over two metres long, the desk curves and swoops – at one end a curled lip rests on the floor, the other features almost animal-like haunches on dainty feet. A game of contrasts - seen from one side, the desk appears a solid panel, but from the other, the exposed shell allows you to see the complex mechanism that holds it together.

In addition, viewed from particular angles, silhouette portraits of Joep Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw appear in the desk’s surface. We asked Verhoeven how and why? "I am the head designer of the desk and the chandelier, but Joep and Judith always make my work better – they are woven into my life and these two works. I found an opportunity with the desk to demonstrate this, so I took advantage of it. I used hand drawn sketches of Joep and Judith’s profiles and then scanned them into the computer so that they could be incorporated into the design of the desk."

And the inspiration for Lectori Salutem, 2010? "The desk takes a lot of inspiration from our previous work Cinderella Table, but we particularly wanted to do something with the car industry. We used a piece from a car manufacturer’s production line as well as drawings of Francois Linke (the 19th century French cabinet maker) and made a new work. It follows the main concept of the Cinderella Table – that craftsmanship today should make use of 21st century tools/techniques, in order to create works that are as visually amazing as possible. I’m sure Bernini would have used robots if he’d had the chance!"

And the techniques used? "The desk was made from a mix of computer aided design and hand drawn sketches, without Phoenix the Dutch manufacturer we could have never realised our dream to create this table. The sketches were scanned into the computer and worked on over a long period of time. The technique used is Rubberpad forming done by a automotive company in the Netherlands – I hope you can look at both of the works and feel astonishment and surprise."

The second piece Virtue of Blue, 2010 consists of a large chandelier encrusted with 550 bright blue butterflies, that in reality are cut to shape solar panel cells. Four different breeds of butterfly are featured: Morpho Peleides, Agriades Franklini, Battus Philenor and Limenitis Arthemis Astryanax – all chosen for their shape. The butterflies hover around a hand-blown glass bulb, as if fluttering against the light. Butterflies were chosen as a visual metaphor, as the solar cells absorb energy during the day to give power to the central light at night, in the same way butterflies lift their body heat through absorption via their wings. Verhoeven told us that butterflies are even more efficient than solar panels in their ability to conduct energy from the sun in order to survive.

We asked the designer how long solar power lasts? "Under ideal circumstances the solar power will light the chandelier for four hours. However it is a hybrid system – so the chandelier can also be connected to the mains. There is a rechargeable battery to provide backup power in case there is not enough natural light."

As for the inspiration: "The real inspiration for this piece was the material used to make the solar panels, which I was amazed by, especially as it’s a naturally occurring material (Polycrystalline Silicon). Normally when people think of solar panels, they think of them on the top of roofs, and in general they are regarded as an ugly necessity. But when I saw the material up close I thought it was beautiful. We wanted to take the panels and put them in a different context so that they can still function but because they are closer to you, and not hidden from view in the same way solar panels usually are, you cannot help but be amazed by the material. I think its crazy that people try to hide solar panels – it’s like putting something beautiful in the bin!"

The Curious Image continues until 16 July 2011 at Blain|Southern, 21 Dering Street, London W1S 1AL

Click on the images to enlarge

Main image: Lectori Salutem
Other images: 1-3. Lectori Salutem 4.-5. Virtue of Blue

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