sub skin – off skin
Trained in theatre design (Academy Artibus, Utrecht ) and sculpture (Gerrit Rietveld Academy), Liesje Smolders developed a very personal style as an autonomous sculptor. Superimposed layers of wood, glued together, are hollowing out, polished and sanded to perfectly curved shapes with a smooth satin like skin. Liesje: 'Skin is a theme full of opposites. Skin is the most extensive and the most sensitive of the senses. Skin protects, but masks and shuts out. Skin contact may involve caressing but also spanking. Skin is sensual, and erotically charged. Wood should feel as skin.' She also makes paraffin works, since paraffin is and looks most like skin. Her traveling installation Via Maria (1995-96) consisted of seven candle-like paraffin Maria's. While burning they transformed from Madonna’s (in the chapel of St. Mary in Hoorn) into passengers (at the Antwerp station) and finally into public women (along the Old Delft canal).
She is fascinated by skin, and by the 'off skin' area of her sculptures and of the discipline sculpture. When using them in performances her works balance on the border of 'theatre specific' and autonomous sculpture. Melopee is an autonomous sculpture, used in the exhibition's opening performance. It consists of two reclining boat-like forms, hollowed out to fit the bodies of Liesje and her beloved, who rock to the rythm of Paul van Ostaijen's poem Melopee.
Liesje's 'boys' are a series of phalluses. They are shown in Gallery Wit as a counterbalance to the hypocrisy caused by a proposed national monument in Wageningen, a copper column-shaped 'erection' . 'Don't you really know what a phallus looks like? The vital manliness, full of life and desire, firm and proud, but also devourable and vulnerable.' The series refers to the most intimate skin contact possible. After having dedicated herself to the female for a long time, Liesje compares her new project to a voyage of discovery. 'The step to go looking in wood for who you are, the essence, the memories en the desire. The soul of masculine drive. The mirror for myself.'
In her Full of the Past Liesje illustrates how the off skin area of the sculptural object coincides with that of the sculptural discipline. In a sheltered spot in the garden sits a woman bent over a table, her hair hanging over her face, to reach the ground, arms and hands resting on the table. The hair, which forms the 'skin' of Full of the Past, directs the viewer's gaze to the woman's passive hands, which are the real portrait. This closed, introvert sculpture radiates desperate resignation. The viewer feels the urge to comfort her, to caress her hair, but he knows he is helpless. The woman will need to tap all her subskin resources to open up to the future again. Liesje forces the viewer into the role of a passive spectator who has to wait how things will end. This sculpture is thought to be the start of a walk along sculptures in the country, during which she wishes to meet the viewer/walker in a one to one situation. How she will work out this project is still open. Twelve paraffin 'boys' (paraffin casts of the phallus entitled Take a seat) will certainly be part of it. Illuminated from the inside they will become 'immaterial, elusive, a dream'.
Integrating the sculpture Full of the Past in a interactive offskin event which is a mixture between fine arts and theatre turns it into a sculptrue in the offskin of sculpture. The viewer/walker changes into a participant, who at the same time is co-maker and part of the art work. Each meeting will be different, resulting in a unique experience for the visitor as well as for Liesje.