Sculptures to enjoy
‘Go with the flow’, ‘Elle est très belle!’ – Astrid Huisman-Biemans creates modern sculptures that convey a pleasing and contemporary outlook on life. Comfort and a zest for life alternate with seriousness and introspection. Huisman-Biemans creates characters you love having around you, just because they make you happy. But also because their well-balanced composition creates a point of rest in the midst of hectic surroundings. The sculptures are cheerful, lively and entertaining.
Take ‘Elle est très belle!’, for instance, an almost life-size (1.64. cm tall) figure of a woman about to depart. She has raised her head expectantly and is carrying a big, beautiful bag. Looking at the sculpture from the back, you notice her hair is in a lovely thick plait, confirming Huisman-Biemans’ great artistic skill. The sculpture is made of bronze and yet you feel like just reaching out and touching the plait because it looks so lifelike. ‘Catwalk’ is one of the artist’s latest creations. It depicts a woman walking, her head raised. She wears a roomy coat over a short, playful dress. As she walks, the garment billows out behind her, as if the wind is playing with it. The liveliness of the coat serves to emphasise what is going through the woman’s mind.
A nod to Japanese culture
It is interesting to consider which elements go towards defining the style of Huisman-Biemans’ sculptures. Primarily it is their solid composition, which provides the framework for the stories the characters tell through attributes. The clear design of her works and the lines drawn by the women’s long legs tend toward abstraction. Amusing and touching details then serve to flesh out the individual’s personality and character – a pair of sunglasses, perhaps, or a billowing coat, a sock falling down, a balloon or an umbrella. These are attributes that speak of a life full of fun but in which there is, nonetheless, scope for reflection. The characters are musing on life. Each leads an eventful existence, with just one specific moment captured. A combination of a clean, well-considered design and a light-hearted story is what makes the modern sculptures created by Huisman-Biemans what they are.
Playing a role alongside the well-considered composition is Huisman-Biemans’ knowledge of and interest in fashion. The focus is not on the clothing itself, but instead its meaning. This is revealed by the elaborate details to be found – the perky little boots, the flare of a skirt, the effective contrast between a fitted dress and a billowing coat. All these details speak to the importance that clothing has. And yet fashion is the main motif in these sculptures only in exceptional cases – ‘Top hat’ and ‘My favourite shoes’ are two examples. These are sculptures that immediately reveal Huisman-Biemans’ distance to the subject: fashion is great, but can also give rise to humour, and a little joke.
The combination of narrative elements and abstraction, of consideration of both the frivolous and the serious, almost naturally leads to a third element characterising Huisman-Biemans’ modern sculptures: a certain interest in Japanese culture. She seems to bring across features of the Japanese philosophy of life – of Buddhism and Shintoism – in her work, and then with a knowing wink. There is a Zen quality to the way in which the female figures combine introspection with a zest for life. Life is short and not always easy, which is why it is important to enjoy the moment. It is not only the attitude to life depicted in the artist’s work that betrays her interest in Japanese culture. She also has a keen interest in the sumi-e drawing technique, in which she is skilled. Sumi-e is a technique whereby one single movement is used to produce a powerful drawing in ink with sharp outlines. Sumi-e captures the wonder of the nuances contained in a brushstroke and in single marks.
Bronze sculptures comprise the largest part of Huisman-Biemans’ body of work. This traditional material is strong and durable and has been used for both indoor and outdoor sculptures for centuries. It has come to occupy a space all of its own in modern art, not least because of the way the material can be fashioned. Huisman-Biemans enjoys playing with the different options for the patination of bronze. Generally, her modern sculptures have a dark, matt patina. In contrast, the details of garments and attributes, such as high-heeled shoes or gloves, are lighter, in a light green patina with traces of white. This makes these details tangible and visible. They appear lifelike – the plait in ‘Elle est très belle!’, for instance, or the folds of the coat in ‘Catwalk’.
Other types of work and other materials
Huisman-Biemans does not limit herself to bronze sculptures: drawings are also an important part of her body of work. These are sometimes preliminary sketches for her sculptures, but more often they are intended to be stand-alone works. In the case of the latter, Huisman-Biemans uses the sumi-e technique mentioned above, which is based on the wonder contained in a single brushstroke and the nuances found in a mark. She sketches characters and situations confidently and with a wealth of feeling.
While black lines predominate in most of Huisman-Biemans’ drawings, she does employ colour too. This is especially evident in her mixed media work (mixed media on Dibond with Plexiglas). These works are a combination of collage techniques and calligraphy. In her inimitable style, Huisman-Biemans depicts situations full of cheerful, agile characters. The works exude energy and a zest for life.
Finally, her sculptures in colour are three-dimensional versions of these drawings. You could also describe them as colourful companion pieces to her bronze sculptures. Using resin as a base, Huisman-Biemans fashions these collages from paint and paper. In her bronze sculptures, the artist treats the skin and uses patination to give greater expression to details. In these mixed technique works, details are made to stand out through the use of colour.
Astrid Huisman-Biemans also makes bespoke sculptures, incorporating the client’s own personal stories into them. Commissioned works are also carefully designed to fit well into the environment in which they will stand. All in all, this is a very special process that can result in an unforgettable work of art for your home or office.