British artist Roger Hiorns (47) has been burying planes for years. Originally, he had the idea of putting a device underground and making it accessible via a staircase. Everything would seem normal, the seats and the safety instructions, except the view, which consists of dirt. He has since buried several planes as conceptual artwork, including at the Groot Bentveld property in Zandvoort. In this way, he sharpens the strange relationship between people and planes. By the way, he doesn’t fly himself.
Then came the pandemic and no one could fly anymore. “I think people have a psychological relationship with flying and airplanes. They associate it with freedom. The idea that you can leave your everyday environment and go to another part of the world. That’s why people are often shocked by the work, to burying an airplane is like burying freedom.”
For his works of art, Hiorns uses materials such as detergent, ceramics, bovine blood and whirlpool baths. In 2008, he became famous with the work Attack, nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize. He pumped 74,000 liters of dissolved copper sulphate into an abandoned flat in London. The interior changed into an enchanting world of clear blue crystals.
In recent years, he has worked with all kinds of other materials, but the blue crystals are now back. A series of new paintings are based on his ‘sex paintings‘, with large interlocking figures reminiscent of skeletons. “I have been making such paintings for the past nine years. Black squares with sexual acts. I wanted to make them smaller and more intimate.”
The crystals make the figures into vague shadows in the background, which were the archaeological finds. Hiorns uses stones to weigh down the paintings during the crystallization process, which takes about a week. After removing the stones, strange bumps appear in the paintings.
Another Gelink Gallery also has a figure of a child overgrown with copper sulfate. “It is made of plastic that is ground so that the crystals can stick. It starts with an atom and then it grows and grows. The stone on top kept the figure in the liquid.” According to Hiorns, it is very unnatural to do something like this, to hold a child under water with a large stone. “But at the same time, crystallization is a very interesting process, you can repeat it in the future. The idea is , that new things can emerge from this picture.”
In a series of sculptures, Hiorns examines the nature of sculpture. “Painting is often highly valued, it is said that images are things you bump into when you try to look at a painting. Pictures have a very emphatic presence. I have tried to make images that are not authoritarian.”
The sculptures are made of synthetic resin and plastic and are transparent. Hiorns also added a metaphysical component. He asked the faithful to pray in front of a series of similar statues. These copies contain nerve fibers that come from a medical laboratory. This gives the work a romantic touch, albeit with an ironic twist. How do you look at a sculpture if it is literally made of feeling, of stimuli, of pain?
In the basement of the gallery, Hiorns shows a video shot in 2016 at St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham. During an evening mass, the choir members sing lying on the floor, in the middle of the church. The believers sit around it. An old ritual is turned upside down. It is amazing that the church has agreed to this strange notion.
“The church was very interested in the experiment. When the film was shot, the church wanted to make more contact with the public. Now they have become more authoritarian again. But back then, as an artist, you could still come up with a progressive idea.”
Roger Hiorns, waysuntil 24/12 at Annet Gelink Gallery, Laurierstraat 187-189