witte jurk met ceintuur, 2005, keramiek, textiel
japanese dress, 2006, keramiek
pregnant, 2006, keramiek
zwarte jurk met gaten, 2005, keramiek, grafiet
zwarte jurk met gaten, 2006, keramiek, grafiet
zwarte jurk met gaten, 2007, keramiek, grafiet
2009, pieta, keramiek
2008, rococo dress, keramiek
2009, black dress, keramiek
‘Under my skin’
10 October –11 November 2009, galerie de witte voet, kerkstraat 135, Amsterdam
In the last few years, Wilma Bosland (1956, Amsterdam) has continued to develop a remarkable series of sculptures that allude to both the clothed and unclothed female body. For the first time this autumn, she will also include pieces which explore new ideas relating to the passage of time and ageing. As in her previous exhibition, Bosland will show glazed and unglazed pieces reminiscent of little girls’ dresses. These are not just innocent frocks, however; they also have the characteristics of an abandoned carapace, like a stiff skin lost by a snake. These fascinating pieces combine the stiff formality found in the princesses’ courtly garments in Velasquez’s intriguing 1656 painting Las Meninas, as well as an untrammelled freedom we associate with young girls who are not yet self-conscious about their bodies. There is a an occasional hint of violence, as seen in some of Bosland’s pieces with punctured holes, as if she is using her own alchemical process to turn wet clay into shiny, white-glazed, but not pretty, lace. The suggestion of damage is not far away... and in addition, her colour palette is intriguing. The surfaces of her work are often unglazed terracotta or pale pink, suggesting the pallor of death. She recognises the influence of 17th century images such as Rembrandt's The Anatomical Lesson of Doctor Jan Deijman. She says that the "colour of skin embodies the different stages of life, from young to getting old,” as if making these works is a form of cryopreservation. But although the clay is very solid, for Bosland they are "as soft as fabric, like a memory of a garment". It’s almost as if we're looking at an imaginary archaeology of little girls’ dresses and their burgeoning bodies. Some of the arms on these headless figures are stretching up as if in ecstasy or seem to be desperately seeking affection; they are deliberately ambiguous, leaving us to project our own thoughts onto their curvaceous surfaces. It is easy to imagine these forms as dancing females, half aware of the fact they will be looked at and performing their femininity through the garments they wear.
Some of the thicker slabs of solid clay suggest layers of fat, and by implication, ageing, middle-aged bodies and wrinkled skin. At the same time, however, by using a higher firing, more grit is visible and these incredible sculptures also assume the features of a desert landscape, where the body becomes subsumed into something much larger than itself. Bosland always begins by throwing a very large shape then ‘manhandles’ her raw material, conjuring up navels in rounded bellies, lifting the wet clay like a pliable body, as heavy as dead meat, then twisting mischievous limbs so that a semi-human form appears to "dance outside her skin". The process of making is very visceral and physically involving. Some of the reduced fired and black terra sigillata pieces are also reminiscent of the crumpled body of the Pièta, but also refer to an industrial past; the blackened products of industry found in cast-iron manufacturing as well as Christian narratives about loss and redemption. It is this dense, intricate and endlessly fascinating combination of the past and the present, the bodily and the non-corporeal that makes Wilma Bosland’s work so powerful and intriguing. She deserves a much wider audience and this is the ideal opportunity to see recent work that addresses very human themes about the passage of time and the changing female body.