Bodies for possible Landscapes, written by Linda Köke

Sabina Timmermans (1984, 's-Hertogenbosch) is interested in the way that humans relate to nature. Nature is a complex concept that changes definition over the centuries, influenced by developments in science, spirituality or art. Through these things we give meaning to nature, and they to us.

 As a painter she constructs landscapes in which she artificially juxtaposes rocks, trees and plants. Painting these objects has a contemplative character. They are things that are not human, but as natural entities have an indispensable presence in the world. By painting them, Timmermans offers an intuitive understanding of what trees or rocks are and how they shape us.

 During her work period at Sundaymorning@ekwc in 2020, Timmermans created the series Bodies for Possible Landscapes. Timmermans sees all forms that we encounter in the landscape as bodies to which we relate. Their presence in the landscape forces a certain way we deal with nature: a tree that has fallen and which we have to walk around, or a rocky path that forces us to walk more carefully over it. As an anthropocentric society, we are used to immediately having human associations with the word 'body', but bodies are everywhere in nature: in animals and plants, in trees and streams, but also in celestial bodies or in the sky. “Bodies are a composite of things,” says Timmermans. “It makes us think about what nature is, what these bodies are in nature, and how we relate to them with our own bodies.”

 The working period at Sundaymorning@ekwc was the first time that Timmermans worked with ceramics. Her work used to be almost always two-dimensional, but in nature nothing is two-dimensional. With this approach she started the working period to give shape to the bodies she sees in the landscape.

 Bodies for Possible Landscapes has become a series of ceramic sculptures with a clear dichotomy: a series of organic forms, with rough structures and natural colours such as brown and green, and a series of abstract, straight pillars in purple and blue.

 The organic shapes are all based on Timmermans' own observations in nature. For example, the black pillar, Black Dust, owes its shape and name to a trek through the dusty volcanic landscape of Iceland. In addition, the works Cycad Body derive their structure from the cycad palms, also known as living fossils. The plant dates back to the Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago. When the leaves of the plant die, they form the trunk and the special structure, which is the inspiration for these works.

Working with clay and the many types of glaze was like alchemy for Timmermans. For Cycad Body 1, she used hundreds of small lumps of clay, some mixed with black pigment, which she assembled and smeared out. In this way the work was given the structure of the trunk of the cycad palm. The work was then glazed matt white, but Timmermans thought the effect was too intense. She covered the work with an etching, which bit away the glaze. It was then placed in a bath of chemicals, which stopped the etching process. The result of this chemical process is a matt surface, which hardly resembles ceramics anymore, and looks more like rock.

 The stylised, pillar-shaped sculptures from the Bodies for Possible Landscapes series represent the less tangible, elusive natural bodies, such as the water surface and the sky. The form is therefore also more abstract. For the glaze, Timmermans chose a sinter engobe that she sprayed on. When firing the ceramics with a sinter engobe, the grains do not fully melt, but they do grow together. Timmermans baked the works at a slightly lower temperature than usual, so that the surface remains grainy. The result is a colour gradient in which Timmermans captures the natural bodies of air or water.

Linda Köke is a Dutch art historian, writer and curator. This text is written for the publication of 'Coeur the Parisienne', a groupexhibition at De Cacaofabriek in collaboration with EKWC, 2021

Copyright © 2020 Sabina Timmermans. All rights reserved.