Jørgen Haugen Sørensen’s enigma is concealed into clay

On View @Messums London until 24 October 2020 ‘A Dark Story In White’ – It feels distressing to step into the Musseums Gallery and slowly be involved into Jørgen Haugen Sørensen‘s tales. The creatures welcoming us at the show don’t look overly friendly: they are covering their eyes making themselves blind to the outside world, while getting sucked up into the matter they are made of, dissembling into clay. We spot a figurine crouching down in despair, in a corner of the room, on top of a multitude of other bodies, an eerie miniature that easily catches our attention. At the entrance, there are more bodies laying on the floor – they seem to be shouting at us – or just hiding in shame, or maybe crying out in anguish.

Throughout his career, Jørgen Haugen has been experimenting with different materials and modes of expression – from clay, marble, plaster, fabric, terracotta, bronze, – while violently transforming them to serve the purpose of understanding the human condition. Digging into the obscure world of loneliness, desolation, solitude, he often adopts materials that become the intrinsic symbolic vehicle, necessary to understand the story, a key that lead us to approach different perspectives – is the sculpture ‘Justitio IV’ a transfiguration of who we really are and what we do? Are the figures depicted in these sculptures ‘normal’? Are they asking for help? We are guided into questions and many layers of interpretations, but there’s not a final answer.

The gloomy alienation of the disfigured silhouettes is perceived through the way they stick into the clay – or it just could be a representation of simple emotions, vigorously crafted into this process of research into our mortal existence.Though we can’t see the real aspects and facial expressions, the bodies preserve their enduring expressiveness – we are related to them, while we quickly understand we might be a part of the brutal world presented to us – for as cruel as it might be.

Matter plays a crucial role – clay, being the most basic material that has been used since ancient times, has association with both creation and decay – it’s so sticky that can be fastidious to remove from your body, so enduring it is easily associated to how we disappear into our worst demons. But it also has an obvious religious connotation – in the Bible creation story, as in many other myths, God created the first man using clay. It is an image that comes back to the idea of life in itself, where soil becomes a divine tool, a symbol of hope. As clay can also be moulded, renewing the figures and shaping them into different creatures – in that way they are closer to ourselves – we end up doubting if they are not gonna be forever trapped into that hopelessness reality they represent. According to the myth, it will be God’s final will to decide if to let them live and to determine if to burn into hell or join the bliss. It’s uncertain if these creatures agree with the final verdict.