Why are we attracted to shiny objects in the first place? Is it because their flawless surface holds a promise of perfection? Is it that their gleam distracts others from our imperfect selves? At first glance the sculptures designed by Iris might seem perfectly innocent, but a closer look reveals their crude origins. Like all glass and ceramic objects they are born out of fire. Their attractive, colourful surfaces are the result of chemical mutilations. Once out of the oven we tend to forget this hellish process of creation, because of the cute and cuddly appearance of the finished works.
Iris creates objects of desire, but she never makes us forget the violence that comes hand in hand with the lust of obtaining attractive things. Her characters inspired by fairy tales do not refer to the censored Disney versions of these children’s stories. They go back to the bloody originals, which were meant to make children aware of the evil side of the human species. With her glass versions of the Christian symbols of faith, hope and love she borrows from the visual language of tattoo artists, hinting at the lasting imprint of religion on the Western soul. At the same time she references Pre-Christian folk traditions, where imaginative freedom spawned fantastical forms and mythical creatures.
Is it kitsch? Iris isn’t at all worried about the diminutive implications of this question. Kitsch is in the eye of the beholder: isn’t all glass art kitsch from the modernist point of view? What is the value of skill since post-modern times, where artists hire ‘craftsmen’ to execute their ideas? Iris seems more at ease with the current emergence of Pop Surrealism, where the development of skill and artistic ideas take place simultaneously. With influences of comics, films, CNN, fairy tales, fantasy and folk stories, Pop Surrealism marries the past with the present. Collaboration and mutual appreciation are essential in Pop Surrealism; in that sense the Shaslick project with sculptor Hans van Bentem is exemplary within Iris’ oeuvre.
Her new work ‘Hysterisch, Minimalistisch’ (Hysterical, Minimalist) seems like the crossroads for Iris; will she go big or will she keep it small? Can she still be characterized as a glass artist or is she becoming a sculptor in the traditional sense? Where are the stark colour contrasts? Is white the way to go? Perhaps we should not worry about the question marks, but look at the here and now as a moment of creativity and endless possibilities.
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