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23 augustus 2021 | Nieuws

The award of 2021: ‘Put a feather in your cap’

The Hague-based artist Yke Prins is the maker of this year’s Piket award. Yke’s bronze plume is not just meant to be given a nice place and be admired from a distance. The thirty-centimeter-high sculpture can be removed from its alabaster pedestal and has a clever little grip enabling you to hold it. Yke: “In this way, the winners can just simply put a feather in their own cap.”

‘You are fine as you are’

“As an artist, you keep encountering moments where the creative process demands a pure belief in yourself,” Yke explains. “Deep inside, I am aware of my own strengths. But there are always situations where I feel unable to make simple choices or cannot find the next steps in the process because of everything that’s tugging at me. Doubts, the demands of my surroundings, artistic trends I should be averse to. There’s only one solution to this: face yourself and put a feather in your own cap. You’re fine as you are and this is precisely what makes your strength! When, in years to come, these young winners get stuck and doubt and despair get the upper hand, I hope they will take the sculpture from its pedestal, put the fingers of their right hand into the magic holes, and tell themselves that they deserve this feather in their cap.”


Yke’s design drawings and the wax model show us how it works. The Plume will be executed in polished bronze and has a yellow alabaster pedestal carrying a small engraved brass plate. Yke will also provide each bronze plume-plus-pedestal with its own wooden box and hand-drawn ‘directions for use’.

Welcome commission

The Piket award was a welcome commission for Yke. The pandemic put an abrupt end to many of her activities. She likes to collaborate with sculpture gardens and, in normal circumstances, travels all over Europe to personally deliver her sculptures and be involved in their placement. Naturally, this came to a standstill as well. The exhibition OER (Primal) she had organised at Pulchri Studio in the spring of this year never opened its doors. “It raises the question: does art exist when there’s no-one to see it?” she muses. “You make an object to give it away. It goes out and does its work. You provide it with a life you can no longer influence.”

Apart from the Piket Art Prizes’ commission, she received a commission from Weleda – the organic skin care company has its centennial this year. “I was also delighted with that commission,” Yke says. “And fortunately I was able to sell some work during the Covid crisis.”

Concerns about her studio

Yke’s concerns about her studio in the former bulb shed of the Clingendael estate did not make things easier. Over the years, many of the estate’s buildings have been put at the disposal of local artists to be used as studios. It was a tremendous shock when it came to light that the studios were on a list of buildings the municipality would like to sell. “The park has a long studio tradition,” Yke says, “and my present studio allows me to be close to nature, which is my main source of inspiration.” She has been working in this studio for ten years and uses the forest’s wood for her sculptures. Moreover, she had a special relationship with the sculptress Thérèse de Groot-Haider (1930–2011), who worked in the bulb shed for thirty years. For Yke all of these means pain and unrest. She can only hope the powers that be have second thoughts.

Atelier Yke Prins.

Relationship with The Hague

The whole situation is all the more unpleasant because of Yke’s close relationship with The Hague. She studied at the Royal Academy of Art and in addition was a member of the Pulchri Studio board for six years and Pulchri’s first female president. She is currently on the board of the European Sculpture Network. “I would advise every young artist to be actively engaged in their own field and organise things,” Yke says. “It’s very instructive and allows you to make a difference within the art scene. In fact, artists also partly create their own opportunities.”

This year Yke’s work features in the Voorhout Monumentaal 2021 exhibition. Quite recently, one of her monumental steel sculptures has been installed in the hall of the Supreme Court building on the Korte Voorhout. She also greatly enjoys her educational work at the Kunstmuseum, Museum Beelden aan Zee, and the Escher Museum. “It helps me keep my feet on the ground, provides me with a bit of extra income, and stimulates reflection on the interaction between art and public.”

Growth, movement, and energy

Yke has been a sculptress for almost forty years and her work has found its way to the places where it stands out best. “For me these are botanical gardens and open air exhibitions. These have the best light for sculpture and enable you to give a substantial role to the relationship between object and nature.” Yke is passionate about travelling through Europe with her work and collaborating with the most beautiful gardens; her sculptures have been shown in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and in Japan. Much of her work has to do with growth, movement, and the vital energy of the natural cycles – the succession of the seasons, outgoing and incoming tides, germination and flowering. She works in wood, stone, bronze, and steel, and creates both small sculptures and monumental objects for public space. The material is essential for her work. “I’ve never been what you would call a modeller or a moulder, but have always been led by pieces of raw material. To me, the material is language and emotion. Possibilities originate in the material.” The tracings of Japanese calligraphy form another source of inspiration. Yke manages to translate them, freely and without inhibitions, into three-dimensional objects full of rhythm and movement.

This energy is also present in Yke’s Plume and she hopes the winners will feel it. “Processes can be so vulnerable,” she says. “The little voice of doubt within yourself, the pressure of the outside world. Don’t listen to that little voice. Just quietly believe in what you yourself want to tell. Then all will be well. Belief in yourself, a feather in your own cap, is all you need.”

You can find more information here.