Introduction

In the late fifties of the past century Maja van Hall studied classical sculpture at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Amsterdam, a solid basis for which she remains grateful to this day. For the content of her work she has developed a vocabulary of her own, which she feeds with her own experience of life. She uses the expressive potential of stone, clay, bronze and sometimes wood to give form to her own state of mind. Slowly but surely, she is gaining more and more freedom for herself and for her  sculptures.

In the sixties she opted for a more informal, abstract expression in material and gesture. She never entirely foreswore figuration, though, preferring the form to emerge from her subjects. Take the small bronze of a vacuum-cleaning female she made in 1967 with the derogatory title of 'Sloof' ('Drudge'). As a feminist, Maja van Hall had created a little monument to the housewife. Three decades later this small sculpture will appear as a huge blue monument ('Filosloof') during the international exhibition 'Role Models', The Hague Sculpture 2003.
A polyester version was acquired in 2009 by the Museum of Modern Art in Arnhem in the aftermath of the international exhibition ‘REBELLE. Art and Feminism 1969 – 2009.

In 1968, in an abstract-expressive vein, she represented the concept of 'Battle' in an eponymous bronze as the aggressive confrontation of two 'parties' in form and counterform, light and dark, line and plane, open and closed. While she is working on a piece it takes on  colour for her, sometimes quite literally when she treats it with pigments and the colour actually defines the sculpture. Such is the case with 'Blue Dog' (1988). Aggressive, as if it had escaped from a myth, there it stands, as large as life. In her recent installations she may  also add planes of colour - pure pigment on paper - to emphasize the theatrical character of the spot and the spatial unity of the whole piece.

'Thoughts' (1992), which she modelled in plaster but also had cast in bronze, seems to have been worked on for so long that the  form is worn away and the surface weathered, as if from centuries of use or misuse. The form of a human head can be discerned. It rests on a satin pillow. This is Maja van Hall's comment on the aesthetic perfection of Brancusi's work, except that in spite of - or thanks to -  the destructive erosion, she has rendered visible and tangible the victory of human strength. Using her personal experience as a source of creativity, she has built up a consistent oeuvre that pays scant heed to trends. She has given her personal emotions, emotions we all  feel, a place and look of their own in Dutch sculpture.

In 2012, on the occasion of her 75th life year and initiated by the HallArt Foundation, the well known Sculpture Museum Beelden aan Zee (Scheveningen/The Hague) has honoured the quality, authenticity and diversity of Maja’s work by hosting a large retrospective                        ‘My work is my biography: the sculpture of Maja van Hall’. The exhibition was accompanied by an illustrated monography (including a comprehensive oeuvre catalogue) and a documentary.

Jetteke Bolten-Rempt,
former Director of the Municipal Museum 'De Lakenhal' in Leiden, Netherlands

Eylard V. van Hall, chairman of the HallArt Foundation, Noordwijk, Netherlands

 

Photographs right column by Bertien van Manen

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