The journey of a sculptor – from clay to stone
by Josée Thissen-Rojer
Until January 30th, 2021, the work of sculptress Hortence Brouwn (1937) will be on display at Landhuis Bloemhof. Her solo exhibition is titled ‘The Journey of a sculptor – from clay to stone’ and marks a pivotal point in her life. It is not an ending, because she will keep sculpting, she’s very clear about that. Brouwn’s zest for life is as large as ever, but she is looking at reshaping her life. Thus, the exhibition is more retrospective of her career as a sculptor.
Her works are on display in and around the manor. Inside the exhibition room, the walls are bare to ensure all focus is drawn to the 35 works, mounted on white pedestals. It is a vibrant mix, thanks to their wealth of color and form. There are another 15 sculptures on display in the gardens, and of course, the popular ‘Big Mama’ is also present. It is situated at the very entrance and is titled ‘Zulaika is enjoying life’.
Brouwn’s favorite sculpture in this exposition is displayed at the start of the garden path to the manor and is titled ‘Good to be supported but stay with your own direction’. It is made from ochre-colored marble from Pakistan and is 50 centimeters tall. The sculpture shows two abstract, rounded figures, attached at the rear. As if they are supporting each other to uphold the striking form of the work.
The inspiration for this sculpture is drawn from her own relationship with her partner, whom she refers to as ‘my love’. For Brouwn, it’s important to support each other in a relationship, but each person needs to have the space to do their own thing. “Always make sure you each have your own foundation,” she explains.
The title of the exposition refers to her career as a sculptress. Through her sequential use of a number of materials, you travel through her sculptural oeuvre while simultaneously taking a stroll through her life. “This is a once in a lifetime exhibition,” declares Brouwn. Also on display in the exposition are portraits made by Brouwn of famous Curaçao nationals, such as Elis Juliana (1927-2013) and Ciro Kroon (1916-2001).
Her first commission comes when she’s just 23 years old. She is then contracted by the Surinam library to sculpt a relief of a waterbird in ceramic. After moving to the Netherlands in the sixties, she takes lessons in ceramics from a sculptor in Leiden. Two works from this period are included in the exposition and displayed at the entrance. The first work is a model study (“Reclining model”) and next to it is a sculpture she made a year later (“Abstract of a reclining model”), where the forms of the model are translated to an abstract work.
These two small sculptures lend an insight into the working method she has retained and refined for the remainder of her career. She’s inspired by people, women in particular, with their feelings and emotions. This is reflected in the titles: ‘I can feel you’, ‘Enjoying the sea’, ‘Terugkeer’ (Return), or ‘Brasa’ (Embrace). But in her work, she abstracts the feelings and brings them back to the core, so only that which she wishes to express remains intact.
Brouwn begins her artistic development by working with clay, and those malleable, soft forms are still very much present in her stone sculptures. She creates tension, as it were, between the hard stone, with a flat surface, and the soft, round forms she introduces. The play of light and shadow is very subtle and ensures that her work keeps fascinating in every aspect.