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Weightlessness of the Unknown 2W7A0033 RT 2
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Weightlessness of the Unknown

Sik, tulle, oil-paint, inktense chalk, silk paint, cotton thread, stainless steel tube

580 × 450 × 45 cm

Conceived as a “self-portrait of her inner world,” Weightlessness of the Unknown is one of Iris van Herpen’s most personal creations to date, as well as her first aerial sculpture.
Featuring an array of complex techniques, the work encapsulates the beauty and chaos
of ideation and experimentation through ambiguous depictions of renewal and destruction. “This sculpture is about catharsis,” says van Herpen, additionally paralleling the meticulous handwork process to meditation. “It’s in that stage of surrendering to the craftsmanship, in being free from time, where I can let go of a certain physical reality that is constraining me, and a sense of transcendence is materialized.” This notion of purification is echoed in the opposing media; delicate, nearly translucent, methodical tulle is juxtaposed with heavy, viscous, haphazardly applied oil paint.

Atelier images by Mellisa Schriek, Installation images by Frank Bohbot

IVH 343A7080
IVH 343A7151

Embers of the Mind

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 Embers of the Mind


Sik, tulle, oil-paint, inktense chalk, silk paint, cotton thread, stainless steel tube, undisclosed material.


460 × 440 × 45 cm


Like Weightlessness of the Unknown, Embers of the Mind was largely constructed with Iris van Herpen’s signature moulage technique, in which she sculpts and drapes directly on a body, or in this instance, on a large tulle base. By covering silk fragments in tens of layers of oil paint, the couturier and artist achieves a lava-like three dimensionality. The eruptive gestures and cyclonic composition reflect the tempestuous stages of the creative process. Catharsis is materialized as a gradual transformation and release. In this act of letting go, van Herpen sculpts to mirror a state of transcendence. The visceral forms are woven together with unraveling textile, bringing the subconscious to the surface through a vaporous aerial perspective. 




Unfolding time

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IVH343A6975 2

Unfolding Time

Silk, tulle, cotton thread, boning, nylon, stainless steel tube, sand.

310 × 290 × 17 cm

Two years ago, Iris van Herpen moved from central Amsterdam to a remote, plant-filled residence thirty minutes north of the city. Between tending to her garden and daily walks around a nearby lake, the couturier and artist rediscovered a profound connection with nature; the changing Dutch seasons proved to be the ultimate muse and inspiration. “The little transformations that happen every day fiercely inspire me,” she says, relishing equally in the flower buds’ blossoming and their inevitable decay. With its curvaceous forms, which are painstakingly pleated by hand, this sculpture captures how being amongst nature can make one feel as if their sense of time is stretched. In an ever-accelerating world, van Herpen is reminding us of the immense value in slowing down. 

Process images by Mellisa Schriek
Installation images by Frank Bohbot


Process details 



Ancient Ancestors

Silk, tulle, cotton thread, nylon, stainless steel tube, sand.

350 × 234 × 40 cm

Water and aquatic life have long been central reference points for Iris van Herpen’s Couture, whether it’s a dress emulating bubbles suspended in space or the undulating movements of a jellyfish. Ancient Ancestors responds to revelatory research conducted by French Biochemist Emmanuel Farge and his team at the Institut Curie. The scientists determined that more than 700 million years ago, the first marine organisms developed their sensory capabilities by physically detecting the motion of the sea. This sculpture pays homage to the evolutionary link between our ancestors’ primitive senses and mankind’s innate connection with the sea. The sinuous draping of silk evokes the gentle swaying of marine vegetation, while the fine abraded elements conjure an underwater network of coral and other marine structures. These organic relics are accentuated by sprinklings of sand, both a metaphor for the passage of time and a tribute to the sea. “I find it quite beautiful that in the very origins of who we are, there is the essence of us feeling the waves,” says van Herpen.


Ancient Ancerstore W7A0271
Ancient Ancerstore 2W7A0398
Ancient Ancerstore 2W7A0319

Interviews  Aerial Sculptures