Wednesday 5 March 2014

Hans (Jean) Arp

Hans Arp, Chance - Form - Language, at Hauser and Wirth, Saville Row, London.

Hans Arp, at Hauser and Wirth, Saville Row, London.
Arp was a key contributor in the development of Dada and Surrealism, and is seen as a key figure of classical Modernism. His abstract, curved, organic shapes originated from an observation of nature combined with an element of fantasy. His creative process was guided by intuition and informed by chance. (For more on the use of the element of chance in the creative process during that period see here).
I found the way the sculptures were displayed (as you can see in the photograph above) did them no justice at all - there were too many, all crammed together: works like this must be presented in a minimal way, allowing them to stand on their own, to breathe.

Resting Leaf, 1959


Cup with Small Chimera, 1947
Ptolemy II, 1958
An exploration of form through the articulation of opposites: inside, outside; presence and emptiness; solid and void.


  1. Arp is a great favourite of mine, and I must agree with you about the display. It is good that his work is not forgotten, however.

  2. I like his work a lot too. There some beautiful pieces there, but the nature of the display made appreciation really difficult - it's a perfect example of how important the curating of an exhibition is. I could also not understand why they used his German first name - I have always known him as Jean Arp: I asked the person at the desk about this but she did not know why they chose to use Hans rather than Jean.

  3. He was both German and French, and I seem to remember reading that he called himself Hans when speaking German, and Jean when speaking French. Because he is best known in conjunction with French artists he is most usually known as Jean, but I must admit that I have always known him as either. Perhaps Hauser & Wirth put the Hans first because they are based in Zurich, in the predominantly German Swiss speaking area of Switzerland -?
    I have always thought that Arp has been under-rated, and prefer his work to that of say Brancusi.

    1. I have always known him as Jean, Olga. I always assumed that he was called Hans when in Germany, but when he moved to France and got well known, he was Jean. But what you say makes sense.

      Have a great holiday in Cornwall!

  4. Looking at his work you can see the influence he had on Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

    1. Absolutely, Mick - it's so obvious with this body of work, isn't it? First thing I thought when I walked in.