Johanna Westerdijkplein, Den Haag
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Hans van Bentem connects popular visual culture to traditional cultural heritage. He consciously captures the fast language of youth culture in slow craft materials such as ceramics and glass. Moreover, the baroque forms and decorative elements refer to centuries-old symbolism, the meaning of which is often worn out or forgotten. But above all, Van Bentem understands the art of seduction. Beauty in form and material are his priorities. And even though his images are recognisable to everyone, that does not mean they are superficial or clichéd. Underneath the shiny, colourful and coquettish exterior are deeper layers of meaning. Think of his chandelier in the shape of a bomb.
Similarly, the monumental vase he placed in front of the main entrance to the new building of The Hague University of Applied Sciences in 1996 is not only reminiscent of a vase from a household items shop, but also of large vases from classical antiquity. A closer look reveals that the grotesque vase shape and the added figurative elements (angel, phoenix, heart, panther and eye) want to take the viewer on a voyage of discovery to other worlds of ideas and cultures.
The ornaments on the vase and pedestal refer to good and evil, courage and vision, steadfastness, self-confidence and a desire for freedom. In Christianity, the angel is the messenger of God, while in ancient Egypt the phoenix stands for resurrection. The image as a whole symbolises both connection with the earth and the need to reach for the higher things. The heavenly dimensions are represented by the angel and the burning heart (desire for union with the divine).
Apart from symbolism, references and deeper layers of meaning, the imposing vase functions as a shining eye-catcher that demands attention and occupies a prominent place in the space. The symbols on the vase have also been transformed into five separate sculptures that 'roam' through the Hogeschool building.