Innocence, purity, loyalty
In many cultures, white is seen as the colour of innocence and virginity, purity, loyalty and peace. In the West, white clothing and decoration are symbolic of the joy around births, baptisms and weddings. The colour is also associated with women as virgins, mothers and caregivers. These themes find a playful and poetic expression in the works by Regula Maria Müller (*1961), Maria Roosen (*1957) and Hinke Schreuders (*1969) and the jewellery by Felieke van der Leest (*1968), but they also examine female roles.
In many African and Asian cultures, as well as in medieval Europe, white is the traditional colour of death and mourning. In the West, meanwhile, black has symbolised mourning since the Renaissance. Miriam Verbeek (*1960) refers to these intercultural differences in her series of black and white mourning jewellery. White represents purity, holiness and eternity in religions including Christianity and Islam. Christian Bastiaans’ (*1951) ‘Madonna of Humility’ (2003) from the series Hurt Modelsreflects the Christian meaning of white as an expression of purity. However, the delicate sculpture made of iron wire and gauze primarily explores the vulnerability of human existence.
Artist Alet Pilon (*1949) also explores the symbolic connotations of black and white in her work and often gives it a surreal twist. Her white ‘ZT (Swan wings)’ from 1995 is a sculptural piece that can be worn around the shoulders. Her work evokes associations with the famous ballet piece of the dying swan and the fate of the mythical Greek hero Icarus. Icarus’ wings of swan feathers and wax melted when he flew too close to the sun. Pilon’s swan wings seem to be an echo of this shattered dream.