Silver taleS
by Jan van Nouhuys
Date: 14 Mar 2013

About My Work

Piece -- materials: silver, brass; dimensions: diameter 24, 15h;

If someone after having looked at my work would ask me: "Why are you doing what you do" I’m tempted to ask a counter question: “Why do you live? Do you know the meaning of life?" Is it not somewhat pathetic to suggest that I do my work out of gratitude to life, or for the love of people? Truth is, that, when I receive sincere sighs of astonishment, joy and surprise from people who see my work, it answers my inner most aspirations that we are meant to surprise one another with sparkles of truth, direction and humor. It satisfies to see people happy! Art is not meant to please people in a cheap way, neither should art be seen as a means to shock or hurt people. The essence of art bears non-preoccupied directives. It is an authentic lay out of the artist's personality, which may please or shock or what ever, as a result of the art expression.

When Chinese artist Ai Weiwei states that 'aesthetic values as such are irrelevant and that art is an expression of courage, hope and change,' he, being an architect as well, does not suggest that aesthetic values are unimportant in making our environment a valuable place. Being socially engaged, as I am strongly, to me, art is indeed about courage, hope and change! If not portrayed in silver it is in one's being, thinking or writing.

If I try to analyze my work as a whole, it would be as complex as to analyze my character. One thing is sure, my work unfolds itself as a 'rail track'. Every new creation can be seen as a 'railway station', which points into the direction of the following stop. Why am I doing what I do? Basically I do what I like, with an attitude of joy. With a love of form, searching for beauty and surprise, with a keenness of adventure in the process of expressing and making. Looking at my oeuvre, I think I can be described as a "form-aholic". The art of silversmithing is a craftbound métier. It is accomplished thanks to the HEAD, HEART and HANDS. If someone would ask me 'What brought you to this particular design?' it is easy to take him back to the roots of it, to the sequence in the process and to the deliberate decisions made prior to starting and underway and why.


What I call a 'paper design' is a rational design by which every detail is worked out on paper. The execution of the design is a straightforward process, the outcome predictable. Such a design is transferable to another skilled silversmith. When I worked in India to train the silversmiths there, such designs were of good use. Working according to a drawing is not particularly my practice though.

My way of working is more or less based on intuition, whereby, although the broad outline may be put on paper (or made in carton), the starting proportion of material is calculated (if possible) or based on experience with a bit of good luck. While executing such designs, I lean on the phenomena which I would describe as: 'the manual intellect': the mind observes while the hands go. In these designs I’m in dialogue with the material: me-material-tools / tools-material-me. Although the choices are made deliberately, the question remains whether the end result will be reached according to my precise goal; in some ways, the circumstances and the silver itself have a say in the process, and that inspires and fascinates me while working. It involves a study of form interlinked with material and the knowledge of my skills. You put into such a design more than an intellectual concept. It is more than just an idea. It is 'me' all out, my misconceptions and blunders included.

I am fortunate to have access to the best possible quality of silver, produced in high tech plants in Europe, and delivered in different alloys and thicknesses on request.

My second best appreciated material is wood. I appreciate the colour, the feel, the smell and the technical possibilities to shape it.

Fred Weegenaar, who does the photography of my work, often complains about the unpredictable aspects in my work. Apart from the reflecting aspects of the silver, most of the designs do not allow to be caught into one projection. Nevertheless, I'm so lucky that Fred succeeds! It is his art of photography which portrays my work the best.