For this new series Helen Verhoeven has made work related to the cultural icon of the mother figure. It is off course hard to add something innovative to an archetype that seems (art)historically, sociologically and theologically quite exhausted, but Verhoeven knows how to go beyond the cliché. As with her previous series The Thingly Character, adding new pictorial representation to the classic subject of the group portrait, these paintings show an equal friction between past and present, form and content. This time the paintings are drenched in colour, but they evoke that same feeling of the uncanny ever present in Verhoeven’s work.
The Mother-paintings present fragmented women composed of many parts, much like the collaborative exquisite corpse drawings made by the surrealists. They are both best and worst case scenarios of the roles of mother and child: motherless child, childless mother, perfect union, and total estrangement. Bound together by the patterns of the tapestries that surround them, and pressed up against the backdrop of shallow domestic spaces, they are merged and intertwined within three traditional female modalities: the paintings collapse the theme of mother and child with the genre of domestic painting and the traditionally female occupation of weaving, craft and tapestry. It is exactly in this complex way of dealing with form versus subject that Verhoeven shows us her mastership.