‘That’s what I will miss a lot, getting lost together’: ArtAttack interviews Jan Hendrix

Maestro Arts in collaboration with Shapero Modern are delighted to bring you Dutch architect and artist, Jan Hendrix’s, first UK solo exhibition BOOK VI: Heaney Hendrix. The exhibition will showcase the artist’s most recent working partnership with renowned Irish poet, playwright and translator, Seamus Heaney.

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The Aeneid Book VI, Jan Hendrix with Seamus Heaney, G. 2016, silkscreen on silver leaf, 117 x 38 cm. folded, c. the artists, courtesy of Shapero Modern and Maestro Arts

Shortly before his passing in August 2013, Heaney completed his translation of the Aeneid Book VI, which is what Hendrix has illustrated and which will be on show.

The creative duo have worked together twice before and became great friends in the process. We are honoured to have been able to speak with Jan about the upcoming exhibition as well as his special bond with Heaney.

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The White Sea (Africa House) c. Jan Hendrix

India Irving (ArtAttack): What is your first memory of making art and when did you decide to pursue art as a career?

Jan Hendrix: You do not figure out when you want to be an artist, suddenly I was one. It’s not a clear choice. I thought that maybe I wanted to make films or draw maps and then I realised there was one way of doing all of that and that was through being an artist.

II: How did you meet Seamus Heaney and what led to you to collaborating?

JH: I first came across Seamus’s poetry in the late 1970’s. I was struck by the power, strength and force of the words, but also their quality and subtlety. I made a series of prints, silkscreens and etchings based on Lovers on Aran. I sent him some copies and from then we established a hesitant correspondence. When we finally met at the International poetry Festival in Rotterdam in 2004, it was very low key, we felt we already knew each other well. It was a year before he won his Nobel Prize.

Our first collaboration was in 1992, before we physically met, we created a letterpress edition of The Golden Bough, Seamus’s earlier translation of part of the Aeneid Book VI.

II: Any special memories you can share with us about this most recent collaboration?

JH: There were so many; it is one life which is the sum of many experiences. We visited many places together, we walked at Yagul exploring the ancient landscape and on the ancient archaeology of the Burren in the West of Ireland. Things would come up and we would talk. That’s what I will miss a lot, getting lost together. Seamus was such a kind, generous man. It was so easy and inspiring to be with him.

II: Can you share a bit about the experience creating the work for this book?

JH: I knew this book was the last project we would work on together. We had been working on it since 2007 or 2008. Seamus kept rewriting the text and then he died. I paused when he died, picking up when the family were ready to go ahead with publication.

While working in that landscape I was thinking about the text about the underworld, the dead and Seamus and his death. I thought very much of death as a line that cut through the imagery. Everything became darker and denser; I created the images in the silver morning light which is very stark. It gradually all came together. When the family gave the green light for making the book, I really wanted to finish it quickly. I wanted to finish the circle at Yagul and to say a farewell, to make an homage to a lost friend whose influence will remain with me.

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The Aeneid Book VI, Seamus Heaney and Jan Hendrix, Bonnefant Press (2016, interior view, c. Heaney Estate, Jan Hendrix, Bonnefant Press, courtesy of Shapero Modern and Maestro Arts

– India Irving

Book VI: Heaney Hendrix is on view at Shapero Modern until 18 February; 32 St George Street, London, W1S 2EA; M-F 9:30-18:30, Saturday 11:30-17:00; Admission: FREE

For more information: http://shaperomodern.com/

 

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