Z.H.B.Hoven, Den Haag
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Practical. That is certainly how you could call the oak leaves that Jan Roëde jr. and Hugo van Valkenburg devised as signposts through the then new Kortenbosch district. That there is this practical side to it has to do with the commission. Originally, this occasional duo received a request in 1979 to design moveable elements for the Kortenbosch district that was still to be built. The elements were to mark the walking route from the centre (former bathhouse Torenstraat) to the playground on Sirtemastraat. In the end, the artists decided against movable elements. Their signage is located in fixed places: in pavements and squares and on walls and facades of houses.
That Roëde and Van Valkenburg opted for a natural form is obvious in a neighbourhood called Kortenbosch. Yet the oak leaves are not merely practical signposts. Through the material used, the artists have added something extra. It is not so much the oak leaves executed in granite that are important, but those leaves made of material that reacts to weather conditions such as humidity and temperature. After a long search, the duo found a manufacturer in the US that supplied a film with liquid crystals that changes colour under the influence of the weather. That is why some oak leaves change colour from blue to red when exposed to moisture, while others take on all the colours of the rainbow when the temperature rises or falls. Incidentally, the artists have wrapped the leaves formed with the fragile film in perspex for protection.
It was not unusual for Roëde, son of the well-known painter Jan Roëde sr. of The Hague, and Van Valkenburg to materialise something immaterial - in this case changes under the influence of the weather. Certainly Van Valkenburg did this more often in his art. He investigated, for example, how he could capture movement (three-dimensionally).