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E.M. Forster's "Only Connect" is a byword for compassionate love, in the sense of engaged goodwill, the effort of understanding. In a first set of sculptures, Anne-Claire van den Elshout focuses on this space by keeping it empty.
So in the sculpture "Reflections", for example, and the similar "Black Heart" (Coeur Noir) the sculpture turns its gently circular form inwards, towards such a space. This space, an emptiness, becomes the focus of the eye: drawing it in like a magnet.
For some reason we want the two ends of the sculpture to meet here, to join up and become a harmony. The sculpture is a metaphor of this wanting to connect, our impulse to be received, well-met, by a complementary soul. And it is impossible - isn't it?
"I want to challenge people to think about their own "inner" reflections", says Anne-Claire, and indeed there is something unacceptably barren about not believing it is possible to truly connect, to never take the risk this requires, to lack the intimate joy of such fulfilment. In practice, bridging the space rests upon faith: it exists because we believe in it, seek it out and try to make it exist.
And if we do connect, the space becomes pregnant with vital possibilities. But once it exists, the connected space becomes a challenge not a solution. How to nurture this space, how to shepherd the possibilities it opens up, how to share the appetite it engenders. With "Les petites danseuses" we have two identical amorphous forms, expressing a feminine grace and chaste sensuality. As a pair they can be moved to be more or less receptive to each other: "I am interested in the space between people because it constantly changes and it can bring people closer - or further apart if it isn't handled with care" (Anne-Claire).
Anne-Claire develops this theme further with "The Space in Between": this sculpture is the surprise of the exhibition. Here the reflections take on external elements as framing contexts from which the connected space emerges, and with which it continually negotiates. Now, the space in between is more of a flow, less of a goal: more complicated. The yearning that comes from awareness is palpable, and the connected space is not simply an isolated instance. So, yes! Love can strike like lightning. But if it is to continue being, love cannot be blind.
With the "Rise of Icarus" and the "Fall of Icarus" (La Chute d'Icare) the focus is on the idea of élan, taking-off. The stern purity, hard softness, of the white marble in the Fall propulses the reckless foolishness of Icarus's attempt to go beyond his nature: to fly. There is a beautiful curiosity in this attempt, granted, but flight is a play of lightness, of movement, in air. Icarus pays the price of common sense and falls. Nevertheless, he is remembered for his bravery, that he accepted a challenge fit for the gods. As a metaphor, Icarus is particularly appropriate for the Artist who has to decide to commit his life to - what? Thin air? No. To the thrilling pursuit of curiosity. Whether this culminates in a rise or a fall, such a conscious decision to take on one's fate and to be mentor of one's soul deserves respect and can arouse our admiration.

Georgina Turner
Fivizzano,
5th September 2017