From 1985 Herbert Nouwens worked almost exclusively in steel, after a solid classical training at the City Academy and a post-academic training at the Jan van Eijk Academy, both in Maastricht. His preference for steel has to do with the great plastic and constructive possibilities of that material, he can use it to express what fascinates him the most: extreme contrasts, apparent weightlessness, large volumes, which can sometimes be very transparent.
Steel suits his associative way of working, suits the necessary and constant dialogue between creator and material during the creation process. He translates his impressions into forms according to the basic principles of classical sculpture. But within that classical tradition, Nouwens has managed to develop his own design language.
He finds it a challenge to create work for a specific place. The work redefines the place.
An observation by a fellow artist is enlightening in this regard:
“When I look at those small sculptures of Herbert, I see that those little things in your imagination immediately expand into very large sculptures in the space, where you can live in. If you look at his big sculptures, I get the exact opposite. Then those large sculptures in your imagination become places where you can simply stand by, which you can take in your hand. I find that the amazing thing about Herbert’s work, that you are very concretely involved in his work, both physically and in your imagination, and I think that is a really great strength of this sculptor.” (Theo Besemer, opening speech during an exhibition)
Herbert Nouwens (Oegstgeest, 1954) is a Dutch sculptor who mainly works in steel. After his education at the City Academy and the Jan van Eyckacademie in Maastricht, he lived and worked for several years at Castle Arcen. In 1986 he left for Amsterdam. He worked there for a long time on the site of the Westergasfabriek. When the park was built there, he eventually left for Slochteren in Groningen, where he could realize his old dream, namely living and working in the same place, in a former diary. Already during his academy time, Herbert Nouwens became fascinated by steel: welding, cutting, forging. He was brought up with this material, with two grandfathers as blacksmiths and the smithy of his father at home. The seemingly rigid, hard material forms with welding flame and cutting torch to fragile and emotionally physically experienced sculptures. Nouwens prefers to work with material that already has a life behind it and is bombed, dented, folded, patinated by time and use. The material is pliable, you can build large and fragile constructions with it and it has a living surface that changes its color and structure over time. Nouwens exploits those qualities of the material. In recent years he also works in stainless steel and stone.