Monday, 12 July 2010


Guido van der Werve, Still from Nummer zes (2006)

22 Nov 2008 - 4 Jan 2009

The films of the young Dutch artist Guido van der Werve (born Papendrecht, The Netherlands 1977) combine melancholy meditations on the sublime with half remembered episodes from art history, and the occasional moment of slap-stick humour. Often accompanied by Romantic piano music played by the artist - a classically trained musician - they may be said to belong to a subterranean tradition of 'Romantic Conceptualism', in which philosophical speculation on the limits of what art might be is tempered by an acute awareness of the glory, sadness, and absurdity of lived experience.

Screened in the front room of the Project Space, Nummer acht: everything is going to be alright (2007) shows van der Werve walking calmly in front of an icebreaker ship in the Gulf of Finland as it carves its way through the frozen arctic seas. Looming like a vast killer whale, the ship, for all its brute force, is less effective at negotiating this environment than the vulnerable figure of the artist. For a moment, it seems as though this is a parable of human superiority to the machine, until we remember that without the protective shell of the icebreaker, van der Werve may not have reached this inhospitable zone in the first place. This is not an image of humanity at one with nature, but of an excessive survival strategy, both majestic and ridiculous.

In Nummer zes: Steinway grand piano. Wake me up to go to sleep and all the colours of the rainbow (2006), screening in the back room of the project space, the artist, accompanied by an orchestra, performs Chopin's Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor on a Steinberg grand piano in his Amsterdam apartment - an action that appears to call a rainbow into being. The incongruity between the modesty of the space and the grandeur of the music is humorous, but the piece also speaks to a contemporary anxiety that, somewhere along the way, our hearts and minds have become too small to accommodate the feelings we might wish to feel.

Curator: Tom Morton

Exhibition Intern: Fatima Hellberg


Guido van der Werve interviewed on the occasion of his Hayward Project Space exhibition

Artist's website

Exhibition review from Art Review magazine

Text on Guido van der Werve by Hayward Curator Tom Morton

Hayward Gallery / Southbank Centre website

Guido van der Werve, Still from Nummer acht (2007)