Dutch artists Peter Gentenaar and Iris van Herpen transcend industries to create art

Paper artist Peter Gentenaar speaks with STIR about shifting his practice from printmaking to paper making, and his collaboration with designer Iris Van Herpen.

by Shraddha Nair Published on : Mar 26, 2020

Peter Gentenaar and Iris van Herpen are two Dutch creators who work with two different media, transcending boundaries between industries - one works with textile and the other with paper, both with visionary aesthetic ideals. In a fascinating collaboration, Peter Gentenaar of Gentenaar Torley Paper Artists created an otherworldly installation for globally recognised designer Iris van Herpen. Van Herpen has revolutionised garment construction, and using 3D printing tools and technology, created a wildly successful label under her own name. She has created head-turning looks for the likes of Tilda Swinton, Björk, Solange Knowles and many more. Her work can be described as sculptural in itself, making her work with Gentenaar a creative collaboration between two artists.

Ghost of Water - part of Gentenaar’s work for van Herpen, using his signature paper making technique | Iris van Herpen | Peter Gentenaar | STIRworld
Ghost of Water - part of Gentenaar’s work for van Herpen, using his signature paper making technique Image Credit: Courtesy of Pim Koppers

Peter Gentenaar was born in 1946 in Rijswijk, the Netherlands where his interest in design and art first began to grow. He eventually studied at California College of Arts where he received an MFA for printmaking. Gentenaar eventually set up his studio back in Holland where he worked primarily with lithography.

He explains to STIR how his practice shifted from printmaking to paper making, saying, “At a certain point I wanted to make three dimensional prints, pressing the paper in deep groves in the etching plate. The paper could not take the pressure and ripped. I thought, paper has a liquid phase in the making process, so I decided to use that liquid state to make my three-dimensional forms”.

Therefore, from 1985 began Gentenaar’s deep dive into this entirely new technique, which created organically formed structures with graceful contours. It is this process which resulted in Gentenaar’s recognisable sculptural style - one which draws similarities to nature, creating unpredictable shapes which one might liken to coral or fungi. Gentenaar elaborates, crediting much of the process to an approach of surrender rather than heavy-handed guidance, “I control this process only partly, and that brings the excitement. Usually the tricks and turns that nature plays with the material are more beautiful than I could plan or foresee. I only facilitate and nature does take over at a certain point”.

  • Gentenaar’s work for Iris van Herpen, a revolutionary pioneer in the industry of fashion | Iris van Herpen | Peter Gentenaar | STIRworld
    Gentenaar’s work for Iris van Herpen, a revolutionary pioneer in the industry of fashion Image Credit: Courtesy of Pim Koppers
  • A visual of the runway exhibition underway in 2018 featuring van Herpen’s designs as well as Gentenaar’s installations | Iris van Herpen | Peter Gentenaar | STIRworld
    A visual of the runway exhibition underway in 2018 featuring van Herpen’s designs as well as Gentenaar’s installations Image Credit: Courtesy of Pim Koppers

Although van Herpen and Gentenaar work in different media and with separate intentions with regard to the purpose of their art, the similarity in visual identity is uncanny. Both imitate the beauty of the natural world, creating work which also simultaneously transports you to a world of unfamiliar. Gentenaar says, “Both Iris van Herpen and I are looking for a strong relation with nature. We follow natural processes and visualise these processes,” highlighting how this collaborative venture was truly meant to be. Gentenaar’s artistic intervention in Iris van Herpen’s 2018 runway show is testament to how cross-industry collaborations can truly elevate each artist’s work, building on top of each other instead of taking away from one another.

River Dragon, a part of the experience created by Gentenaar Troley Paper Artists | Iris van Herpen | Peter Gentenaar | STIRworld
River Dragon, a part of the experience created by Gentenaar Troley Paper Artists Image Credit: Courtesy of Pim Koppers

Iris van Herpen has showcased her work at several runways, fashion weeks and even museums. Her first exhibition was in Amsterdam and today she has showcased in cultural capitals like Tokyo, Paris, London and New York several times. Notably, she was even a part of Art Basel in 2016. Most recently, she showcased a new collection at Paris Fashion Week 2020, a highlight in the career of any fashion designer.

Peter Gentenaar, along with Pat Gentenaar, is currently working on commission works based in London and Dubai. They will be showcasing their artworks at Gallery Paper Art and Design in The Hague from April 4th until July 4th 2020. Later this year in October their works will be seen at Silk Road International Arts Festival, in the Shaanxi Province Arts Museum representing the Netherlands.

Red Cone by Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar exhibits an experimental approach to print and paper making | Iris van Herpen | Peter Gentenaar | STIRworld
Red Cone by Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar exhibits an experimental approach to print and paper making Image Credit: Courtesy of Pim Koppers

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About Author

Shraddha Nair

Shraddha Nair

Nair is a writer and curator based in Bengaluru, India. Her curatorial practice is a method by which she negotiates with and navigates the complexities of human behaviour, an interest which flows into her writing as well. She believes that art and collective experience hold immense capacity in the cultivation and development of action and emotion.

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