Tangible Transformation in Disseny Hub Barcelona

By: Claudy: 09-11-2023

The new monumental wool-felted artwork 'Tangible Transformation' depicts a vital, blooming and colourful landscape and is inspired by the colour palette of 15th-century tapestries dominated by different shades of green. This work can be seen for the first time at the eponymous retrospective by Dutch artist and eco-activist Claudy Jongstra at the Museo de Diseño, Disseny Hub Barcelona from 23 November 2023 to 14 January 2024. 

 Tangible Transformation is the third work in a series of travelling monumental activist artworks Jongstra created as visual manifestos with powerful eco-political messages. After Woven Skin (2018) and Guernica de la Ecología (2021), Tangible Transformation depicts the hopeful sequel. Tangible Transformation is inspired by the so-called Verdures, woven tapestries whose backgrounds are completely filled with predominantly green decorative foliage. These traditional landscape tapestries glorifying nature peaked in Flanders in the 15th and 16th centuries in particular. In Claudy Jongstra's translation, the greenery is dressed up in exuberant colours and serves as a manifesto for an alternative future: it constitutes a call for awareness to do something to protect and preserve our ecosystem and realise a more biodiverse landscape. 

 Guernica de la Ecología 

The title of her well-known Guernica de la Ecología, which is also on display during the exhibition at Disseny Hub (DHub) Barcelona, refers to the iconic Guernica painted by Pablo Picasso in 1937 as an indictment of the violence of war during the Spanish civil war. Jongstra's Guernica is a colourless, desolate, bleak and menacing landscape. With this swirling field of flowers, Jongstra makes a fist against a neglectful world that treats the earth lovelessly. It expresses the violent destruction of our ecosystem by climate change and intensive agriculture and reflects the lack of it seen in our landscapes today. Jongstra makes an urgent call to bring colour back into the landscape mutilated by monoculture and restore biodiversity. Both Tangible Transformation and Guernica de la Ecología are the same size as Picasso's work: 3.60 X 7.90 metres. 

 Her wool-felted tapestries are composed of wool from a flock of native Drenthe Heath Sheep (the oldest breed in northern Europe), dyed with native dye plants. Jongstra cultivates these in the botanical garden at the biodynamic farm in Friesland she runs with partner Claudia Busson. These dye plants enrich the soil, feed bee populations and contribute to regional biodiversity, while the grazing sheep provide the ecological balance. In this way, Jongstra creates a fully sustainable and circular chain that results in her vibrant artworks.

 EINA Collserola LAB 

Tangible Transformation is appropriately presented in collaboration with the 'Tornen les esquelles' project of the Barcelona University Centre for Design and Art (EINA). The EINA Collserola LAB aims to revive the remnants of pastoral culture in Barcelona's Serra de Collserola natural park by recovering the wool from the herds that graze in this natural park. This is because the industrialisation of textile production and the introduction of synthetic fibres has resulted in most farmers throwing away or burning the wool of their sheep.

 In the Netherlands alone, 1.5 million kilos of wool are burnt every year. Barcelona's Serra de Collserola nature park faces a similar challenge: tonnes of wool from the sheep flocks grazing in the nature park are thrown away every year due to a lack of opportunities for processing. Jongstra, who has been working with wool for 30 years, has an ongoing mission to demonstrate the important value of wool and restore the link between manufacturers and materials.

 LOADS Collection

LOADS and LOADS Collection will also be presented. LOADS derives directly from the cooperative and ecological way of working on the biodynamic farm in Friesland. Together with her partner, Claudia Busson, Claudy Jongstra opened LOADS in 2022, an extension of the studio focused on three pillars: education, agriculture and fashion. Here, ancient knowledge is transferred by revaluing and reviving crafts like weaving and spinning, reinventing historical techniques and creating colour recipes for natural dyes. Collaborations are taking place here with students, designers, farmers, scientists, curators and businesses.

LOADS Collection is the first project to emerge from LOADS. The exhibition will feature two garments: one related to the Spanish and the other to the Dutch countryside. One garment is made of wool from herds grazing in the Sierra de Collserola Nature Park. The wool was collected by Tornen les esquelles and dyed with biodynamic sunflowers and coreopsis grown at the Entheos biodynamic farm in Lerín, Spain. Working directly with local shepherds and farmers, this garment links the exhibition to the revitalisation of the Spanish countryside through projects by Tornen les esquelles and a growing network in Spain focused on the future of wool. 

The other garment is made of native Drentse heath sheep wool and the historic dye woad, a plant that had disappeared from the Dutch landscape for a hundred years and is now being grown on a large scale again by Studio Claudy Jongstra together with farmers from Brabant's Beersche Hoeve. 

The two garments from the LOADS Collection will hang above two interwoven labyrinths formed by the raw materials from which the garments are made, such as Drenthe heath sheep's wool from the Netherlands and biodynamically grown flowers from Spain. Visitors can thus experience the garments in close relation to the materials and landscapes they come from.

Viktor & Rolf's Burgundian black couture

Finally, Jongstra shows the colour black-inspired Spiritual Glamour autumn/winter haute couture collection by Viktor & Rolf. She created a series of sculptural coats with voluminous shapes for these well-known fashion designers in 2019. Viktor & Rolf were fascinated by Jongstra's scientific research on the complex colour Burgundian Black and by her ecological practice. For them, she dyed woollen coats with the specific and complex shades of Bunrgundian Black that master dyers perfected between the 15th and 17th centuries. In collaboration with Utrecht University's ERC Artechne, led by Professor Sven Dupré, Studio Claudy Jongstra has revived long-lost creative processes and recipes by creating a multitude of brilliant shades of natural black.