The Curious Image is an exhibition that presents two new works by the Dutch artist and designer Jeroen Verhoeven, and in doing so aims to highlight the thin membrane that exists between art and design, form and function, and
technological innovation and traditional craftsmanship. These categories are neither autonomous nor fixed, but rather are characterised by a fluidity that establishes their interconnected states. Here, Lectori Salutem (2010) and
Virtue of Blue (2010) are brought together for the first time to underline how new modes of furniture and lighting can continue to challenge our understanding of twenty-first century art and design.
Lectori Salutem is imbued with symbolic value as it conveys the intimacies of Verhoeven’s own personal life. While ostensibly a desk, produced through a combination of highly-skilled craftsmanship and carefully-programmed
technical processes, the personal life of the maker is evidenced within the work as two silhouette portraits of the artist’s design collaborators, Joep Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw, are subtly shaped into its undulating surfaces.
Thus, the piece combines design functionality with an artistic rhetoric that subliminally communicates the importance of Verhoeven’s immediate creative circle. Constructed using highly-polished steel, the traditional
industrialism of this material is inverted to produce an elegant and seemingly lightweight object. Through a delicate distribution of weight, the piece combines streamline curves and flowing contours to create a physical equilibrium and an illusionistic sense of movement and speed.
This language of inventiveness extends to Virtue of Blue, a chandelier playfully exploring an economy of light through innovative materials. Powered by sapphire-blue solar panel cells, the piece is intrinsically self-sustaining as it absorbs the energy of daylight to fuel its own illumination. The cells have been cut into the shapes of four different breeds of butterfly which seem to flutter around a central flame-like hand-blown glass bulb, their iridescent wings glinting in the light. In reality, butterflies physiologically power their own bodies, using their wings to absorb the rays of the sun in order to increase and then sustain their own body temperatures, necessary for their survival.
Accordingly, the semiotics of Virtue of Blue are highly significant as its butterfly forms become signifiers of the light’s self-sufficiency.
Jeroen Verhoeven works as part of the design-collective Demakersvan. Pushing at the boundaries of the Droog generation designers, their work is part of a new wave of Dutch design characterised by its flamboyant, expressive
and conceptual edge. The Modernist ideal of form following function is turned on its head as the collective prioritises a conceptualism that explores the potential of fantasy and dreaming: ‘we want to … [produce] a movement that goes beyond ego to create a super storyteller.’ Commonplace objects are transformed into the unique and extraordinary, stimulating the viewer’s curiosity and imagination to deliver a design experience far removed from the everyday.
Jeroen Verhoeven (1976) graduated from Eindhoven Design Academy in 2004, subsequently establishing design collective Demakersvan in 2005 with Joep Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw. His work has been exhibited internationally, with recent group exhibitions including ‘Telling Tales’, V&A, London (2009), ‘Young Blood’, Carpenters Workshop Gallery, London (2008), and ‘Digitally Mastered: Recent Acquisitions from the Museum’s Collection’, MoMA,
New York (2007). Verhoeven’s graduation project, Cinderella Table is in the permanent collections of MoMA and the V&A.