Sharon Van Overmeiren
Playing out vertically, Sharon van Overmeiren’s works take on the auratic qualities of the totem, their anthropomorphism coming with promises of talismanic powers. They stand vertically, cutting the space as bulkheads in a psychological landscape. But in their full frontality they also look strangely naked, a feeling we could owe to the materiality of the ceramic, making the auratic character less stable, as if those figures were unsure of what they are supposed to conjure. To read it with a sense of mission reminds of a modernist tradition: David Smith’s Tanktotem of 1952 stands in vicinity, treating the totem as an abstract sign through a precise work on the materials that compose it. Van Overmeiren’s emblems work however outside of a strict authoritative frontality: the clay is baked at low temperature, a material composition reminiscent of an organic body and its internal architecture, the statues’ openings playing out as air vents. They seem to shape networks of pumps and reservoirs, as a natural air conditioning system of an ancient architecture that would use evaporative cooling to support extreme heat. A call to the present, as those past technological feats make their comeback in light of ecological challenges. This actual urgency is set in the slow temporality of ceramic, linking specific cultural knowledge to the subjective understanding of its materiality. An interweaving of both registers that mark the essential personal and political aspects of Van Overmeiren’s practice.
But to look at the sculptures means also coming closer to a sense of playfulness, as if there was a mischievous intention to replay the auratic of the totem with cartoonesque codes. The curved-in shapes recall exaggerated grimaces, something almost goofy. Their shape in themselves can trigger another association, for example to Dyson cooling systems that breathe out fresh air. The call to goofiness or contemporary objects so symbolic of the comfort of the modern house links it to another form of speculative anthropology. Van Overmeiren’s sculptures operate within this realm: the talismanic function due to their totem-like character, a kind of mutability in their genres as objects (those little statues that could be souvenir shops memorabilia as well as sex toys), and a pronounced return to the natural (pedestals as stumps, statute and base merging as if it was all carved out in one piece). They mutate outside of a linear loading bar of progress, and enter in repeated reverberations through time and space and the forming of cultures, as symptoms of an archaic future.