Henk Visch

Eindhoven NL 1950, lives and works in Eindhoven

Het Beeld (The Sculpture) is a bronze figure by Henk Visch from 1993. Dressed in what could be an elegant gown, the figure seems to be proceeding forward while in a state of contemplation. The simple, smooth contours show scarcely any detail at first. In the small head facing downward, fine facial features do emerge, and the shape of the body is indicated with a few curves or modulations.

There is something peculiar about the title of the work: in Dutch, the two simple words can be both a general and a specific means of designation, depending on the emphasis given to the article ‘Het’. The paradoxical appearance of the sculpture makes the words echo back and forth, as it were, as though the one connotation (that of virtual anonymity) dominates alternately with the other (one of uniqueness).

Henk Visch has a remarkable instinct for the way in which language and image affect and reinforce each other. This is evident not only from the unexpected titles that he gives his sculptures, but also from the frequently poetic texts that are placed on the works or among the figures in his drawings.

Until 1980 Visch worked only on paper. Most of his drawings are executed in just a few clear lines. They often show fairy-tale-like figures, who are surrounded by enigmatic objects or busy doing things. As such Visch suggests actions that are matter-of-fact for his characters, but at the same time he allows them to remain lost in a world of their own which is inaccessible to the viewer.

The drawings can generally be regarded as independent works, which make up a separate part of Visch’s oeuvre. In some of his sculptures, the relationship with his drawn work seems to be evident. With Het Beeld, for instance, it is as if the contours have been drawn, as if the sculpture assumed a volume only after this. But usually one cannot speak of such a stylistic similarity. His sculptures can vary from monumental wooden constructions and large polyester forms to small figures of found material.

Visch does always aim to stimulate the associative powers of the viewer, even when one is ultimately unable to perceive the enigmatic essence of his sculptures. And here lies the strength of his work, which in fact has its completion in the eye of the viewer. ‘The work of art,’ says Visch, ‘has access to only one aspect of observation, namely that of being seen. Its visibility is its strongest quality, and it was made for this purpose alone.’