Artist Frans de Winter: ‘I set fire to my own work’

Anyone who visits Westhavenkade can’t have missed it: the steel human figure that has been there since last July. Vlaardinger Frans de Winter (45) is the artist behind this sculpture, which bears the name “Gegrond”. “I made this picture with Mariupol in mind.”

The statue is a monument commemorating the Battle of Vlaardingen in 1018. To teach primary school children about this event, Vlaardingen municipality has launched a competition. The children were allowed to design a monument themselves, and the winning drawing was actually done by Frans.

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“Founded”| The monument commemorating the Battle of Vlaardingen in 1018 on Westhavenkade

Inspired by dance

Funnily enough, Frans wasn’t actually a sculptor at first: He studied painting at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. After a further education that did not suit him, he then sat quietly for a while as an artist. When he went to work in the theater as assistant building, he took up artistry again: “I was inspired by the dancers I saw on stage. At first I wanted to make a painting, but it all became spatial by accident. For the first time, I really enjoyed making it again.”

International

Frans now has a lot of work and a few countries to his name. Last summer he exhibited five sculptures in Sint Amanduskapel in Ghent. In July he placed his sculpture on Westhavenkade, after which he went straight to Italy for another exhibition. When he returned from Italy, the ceremony was held, but some enthusiasts had already seen the statue: “Before I left, I placed that statue at the municipality. I tried to wrap the picture, but people couldn’t control their curiosity.”

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Fully equipped

Not only the design of the statue is impressive, but also the material with which it is made. The statue is made of a special material called Corten steel. This material rusts on the outside and it slowly changes to a rusty brown color. But that is not the only special thing about Frans’s working method, he says: “The statue is hollow. I make a wooden form to which I screw the steel plates and weld them together. Then I burn the mold away. So I set fire to my own work! I also think it would be fun to use this process as the opening of an exhibition, as a performance.”

War in Ukraine

Human figures are mainly recognizable in his sculptures. This makes it easier for the viewer to empathize with the image being shown, and as a result, art can touch people in a certain way. This is also how Frans worked with the statue on Westhavenkade, he says: “We all experienced the impact of the war in Ukraine in Europe. I made this picture with Mariupol in mind. dA thousand years ago, Vlaardingen was also a safe place that people have lost.

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The wooden mold on the inside of the artwork is burned away.

Positive reactions

Frans has had many positive reactions to the statue in Vlaardingen: “A few days after the ceremony, I went to see if the statue was already rusting nicely. Then someone shouted to me from across the harbor: “Nice statue, Frans!” I didn’t know that person, so it was extra fun’. And in Italy, the producer also received such a nice compliment: “A trained dancer was invited to dance an improvisation. Her source of inspiration was my picture. It was also a gift!”

Future

The artist is already working on the next project: an exhibition about Rembrandt van Rijn’s anatomy lesson. And he is far from finished making art, he says: “I hope to continue in old age. In the time I have, I want to stay with myself as much as possible. You have to react to the times, see opportunities in the present. If you keep focusing on big goals, you won’t see the little things around you. You have to be surprised by those moments.”

You can see more of Frans’ work at www.fransdewinter.com.

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