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interview Art and Perception 2006 by Penny Smith

Anita Manshanden is another interesting product of the Rietveld Academy - she graduated in 1991. In this instance, Manshanden extrudes hollow tubes, 1-2cms in diameter that are then carefully shaped into a range of intricate patterns that are then laid into convex (female) or concave (hump) plaster moulds. These pre-assembled sections are then joined together at leather-hard stage to create her large, three-dimensional and visually complex anthropomorphic forms. These are then loaded with heavily pigmented sinter-engobes to provide a luxuriantly dense and subtly textural surface. This however, is an intentionally deceptive ploy. Manshanden's use of seductively 'velvety' surfaces invite a tactile response, but in reality, their 'droog' skins are rough and gritty - this 'dryness' is indicative of her delight in confusing her audience - inviting a more intimate acquaintance with her work. Her inspiration is drawn from an eclectic range of diverse influences ranging from architecture, decorative wrought iron gates and fences and more recently, the botanical studies of the German photographer, Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). It is in Manshanden's work that I see a rich undercurrent of a distinct Dutch design idiom, led by such young stars of Holland's industrial design scene as Tord Boontje and Marcel Wanders. These two designers work with wit and satire on the cusp of craft and design, and like Manshanden, combine decorative motifs from nature and a contemporary version of 17th and 18th century Romantic aesthetic. Manshanden's forms are as robust as they are elusive. The robustness of their form is implied in their shapes, found both in nature and the kitchen - distinct flower heads (the complex structure of a dahlia head comes immediately to mind) sit comfortably alongside bell shapes or crystal formations. However, it is their skeletal configurations, like the 'crocheted' tables of Wanders, or the cascading blossom chandeliers of Boontje, that provide the viewer with a sense of interwoven spatial form. Manshanden's work has a sense of the monumental, whilst appearing simultaneously as lightweight and fragile as a lace doily or a stencil cut paper lantern.