Hans Theys is a twentieth-century philosopher and art historian. He has written and designed dozens of books on the works of contemporary artists and published hundreds of essays, interviews and reviews in books, catalogues and magazines. All his publications are based on actual collaborations and conversations with artists.

This platform was developed by Evi Bert (M HKA / Centrum Kunstarchieven Vlaanderen) in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp (Research group Archivolt), M HKA, Antwerp and Koen Van der Auwera. We also thank Idris Sevenans (HOR) and Marc Ruyters (Hart Magazine).


Tamara Van San - 2018 - Speaking Forms [EN, essay]
Text , 1 p.


Hans Theys

Forms that speak
On the work of Tamara Van San

Tamara Van San (°1982) creates sculptures that speak to us without being figurative or geometric. That is exceptional. She can also sculpt (bring shapes to life) by colouring them. That, too, is exceptional.

First something about the non-figurative and non-geometric form. We should bear in mind that nearly all artists who make ceramic sculptures (including those of today) make vases. Sometimes they turn the vase into a naked woman by adding breasts, sometimes they put flowers in it, sometimes they turn it into an owl. But vases they remain: ashtrays extended with piled-up and smoothed-out sausages.

With Van San we see something very different happen. Given that ceramic sculptures must be hollow (because otherwise they crack during firing) and that they cannot be strengthened with a metal structure, she has developed several techniques (other than the extended ashtray technique) to make towers. By doing this in a legible way, she makes meta-sculptures, which continue the old conversation between sculptors like Rodin (‘le passage du trou à la bosse’), Henry Moore (‘the science of holes and bumps’) and Brancusi (‘faithfulness to the used material’). When the ‘Red Babel’ tower sculpture went into the kiln for the second time, this time for glazing, none of the staff at the famous EKWC (European Ceramic Work Centre) in ’s Hertogenbosch believed that the structure would survive this second firing. And yet…

Colour is used to influence the volumes and shapes, either by using different values of the same tone to modulate, or by using two or three colours to have the object vibrate.

Tamara Van San makes genuine sculptures that don’t look for answers to academic questions, but spring from a life rooted in the real world, in which the love of beautiful things ranges from a blue spotted sting ray to Picasso’s plaster cast of a ball of paper.

Just as every spoken language consists of meaningless sounds and gestures which only take on meaning when ordered and used, Tamara Van San twists, pulls and pushes forms in an epic poem of countless verses, which don’t speak to us with words, but sing on thoughtfully in the unguarded rooms of our existence.

Montagne de Miel, August 2nd 2018