This winter, thanks to a generous gift, the Gemeentemuseum is very delighted to display a selection of works by Maria van Kesteren (b. 1933). Van Kesteren (b. 1933) creates objects in which material and technique are entirely secondary to form. Yet the form is to some extent dictated by the technique: woodturning necessarily implies circularity. This functional constraint seems to Van Kesteren a natural limitation and for over forty years she has managed to explore form endlessly within it.
“I am a woodturner; wood is my medium. I’m in command, it’s pleasant to touch and it smells wonderful. Unfortunately, wood has two other properties that I’m not so keen on: its colour and texture. That’s a nuisance, because it distracts attention from the form.”
Van Kesteren deliberately endows her objects with grooves, slits, narrow clefts and mysterious cavities: glimpses and suggestions that create suspense and rouse the viewer’s curiosity. Rounding off the edges, however subtly, raises a solid form a fraction from the ground or creates the suggestion of a floor or interior space: part of the form that remains invisible, yet perceptible.
The forms are quiet and contemplative, unemphatic and restrained. They look tactile, yet seem remote and untouchable. They demonstrate a taste for contrasts, shadows and clean lines, although Van Kesteren never allows their edges to become hard or sharp.
Everything that can be eliminated is. Forms are reduced to an archetypal essence. Refinement is taken precisely as far as it can go without loss of tension and excitement. This is the splendid paradox of Van Kesteren’s work. On the one hand, the formal perfection of her objects belies their human facture; on the other, the pieces are concrete evidence of the artist’s complete command of her medium and many years of dedicated formal exploration. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is grateful to Stichting Altena Boswinkel Collectie for its generous gift.