Anne Holtrop created a series of furniture objects based on the stone collection amassed by the French philosopher and sociologist Roger Caillois as pictured in his book The Writing of Stones. Caillois shows a collection of the insides of agate, jasper, and onyx stones. The remarkable thing in these stones is that we tend to see images in them. Anne Holtrop carefully selected fragments of the stones and from them made his Mirror, Desk and Shelves. The objects are given the same painstaking treatment as a painting. They are hand-painted by Sylvie Van der Kelen of the Brussels decorative painting academy Institut Supérieur de Peinture Van der Kelen-Logelain. Specialized in trompe l’oeil techniques, she recreates the effect of Caillois’ ‘pierres à images’.
Roger Caillois (1913 – 1978), a French philosopher and sociologist, was a friend of Surrealist André Breton, that is until they had a disagreement. Over a Mexican jumping bean no less! Caillois wanted to cut open the symbiotic legume and peer in at the worm inside while Breton preferred to remain ignorant of the mechanics behind what he saw as a magical thing. It is Caillois inclination for empiricism that separated him from Breton, and in turn inspired him to explore the grey area between the magical and a natural order of things.
Caillois collected a humongous collection of polished stones from around the world, seeing within them what he termed “secret cyphers of the Universe.” They become miniature pieces of art, with no artist behind their creation except for the Universe itself. Caillois not only questions the role humanity plays in art creation, but also the aesthetic values that only humans possess. These stones for Caillois show how without humanity there remains aesthetic. Further it is nature that dictates human aesthetics and imagination.
The Institut Supérieur de Peinture Van der Kelen-Logelain was one of the first schools dedicated to the study of decorative painting. Founded in 1882, it originally focused on professional painter-decorators looking to move into interior decoration. It now attracts students from a variety of backgrounds, including artists (e.g. Lucy McKenzie in 2007) looking for a solid foundation away from the conceptual methods of art education. The school teaches six-month courses, from October through March, where, each semester, about 30 students study. They learn to recreate the effect of 25 types of marble, 25 types of woods, moldings, gilding, patina, and 3-D lettering, as well as various set design effects.