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Exhibitions > Chemical Crows

Chemical Crows / January 2008

What started out as an experiment in form using a child's broken umbrella resulted in a collection with pieces that evoke the constructivist work of the Russian sculptor Naum Gabo.

In spite of those formal parallels, this collection is primarily the sum of free associations connected with Iris van Herpen's fascination with black magic and alchemy. The primary association was triggered by the group of crows who lived around her studio and whom she could follow every day. Van Herpen had kept young jackdaws as a child and is fascinated by these birds, which in turn display a great predilection for glittering objects. Crows are also known for their intelligence and are traditionally associated with secrecy and symbolism.

At the same time, Van Herpen is intrigued by alchemy and shares with alchemists a passion for controlling and transmuting materials. That is how she developed the urge to turn the crows, who every day aroused her curiosity about their language and activities, into gold. Van Herpen has combined all these elements in this collection.

As alchemists tried to turn base metals into gold, so Van Herpen has transformed gold-coloured
umbrella ribs into whimsical fan-like shapes. They are a reference to the crows, whom she, in her
mind's eye, has translated into gold. She has also used thousands of metres of industrial yarn to construct layered textures that give the impression of a suit of feathers in motion as it flies and flaps. With the same passion and enquiring compulsion to gain control of the materials, Van Herpen has thereby transformed her materials into this amazing collection. With their dramatic upright collars and impressively accentuated shapes, the models seem to be preparing for a mysterious ritual.

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