Hands Up: Iris Van Herpen

July 4, 2022


In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a classic text that inspired this collection, the weaver Arachne is transformed into a spider by Minerva, Daphne becomes a laurel tree, Venus turns the blood of her lover Adonis into a flower… With no attempt to parody, no plagiarism, Iris Van Herpen holds the secret behind such poetic alchemy. The flowing of the water becomes cloth, she recreates all the streams, all the meanderings, all the complexity of life. Under a rain of golden moons, her neo-ancient fantasy summons contemporary issues. Post-humanism, metaverses, digital identities are at the heart of a reflection in which the hand play a key role. A hand freed, precise, rigorously tracking the outline of a body in bloom, in full metamorphosis – all visible through these drapes in waves, these dresses in pineapple fibre, these ribbons reproducing faces.

Courtesy of Laurence Benaïm

Sixteen “physical” silhouettes and three avatars compose this surreal galaxy that emerged from her studio in Amsterdam, where 28 people – from the petites mains to 3D artists and engineers – are working. At the Élysée-Montmartre, where the show is taking place, the floor seems to disappear; it becomes a vast liquid expanse, an Arcadia offered to the hybridization of technology and tradition. “I have always drawn and painted,” says this inspired left-handed artist, reminiscent of Ophelia, daughter of a dancer and a musician. “I played the violin for ten years,” she adds.  “The heart of the atelier remains the craft.” There’s an almost surgical care, as proven by these fingers delicately handling the sculpted figures. In 2023, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris will dedicate its first retrospective to Iris Van Herpen. In the meantime, Casey Curran’s work, like all these models, speaks of a world without end, where alternative leather filaments draw the true revolution to come. Blurring the boundaries between the human and the botanical, Iris Van Herpen makes a plant emerge inside a skeleton with golden bones. The line becomes pure movement. “Under the waves, the sea rises, it seems to meet the sky,” and seems to whisper Ovid in her ear.

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