in Features | 08 SEP 16
Featured in
Issue 5

Artists' Artists - Francesco Clemente

Artists write about a work of art that has influenced them

in Features | 08 SEP 16

Joseph Beuys, Badewanne für eine Heldin  (Bathtub for a Heroine), 1950 (cast in bronze, 1961)

Joseph Beuys, Badewanne für eine Heldin (Bathtub for a Heroine) cast, 1961, bronze, steel and plastic, 15×41×24 cm. Courtesy: Hamburg Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Joseph Beuys was the last representative of the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner and Wilhelm Lehmbruck. Steiner, like many mystics and artists at the onset of the 20th century, looked for alternatives to a materialistic worldview and warned of the danger of believing blindly in progress, rationality and capitalism. Two World Wars later, Beuys created Badewanne für eine Heldin (Bathtub for a Heroine, 1950). A bathtub is nested on the tooth of a mammoth. An electric coil spirals in the water of the tub, generating heat and vapour. A figure reminiscent of a fertility goddess or an image of victory stands on a pedestal, a grim leftover of industrial production. Deep time, transformative energy and feminine power all come together to remind us that art is not meant just to celebrate power and obedience. Art must undermine our present values and describe new ones, reinventing and recovering our sense of the sacred or, at least, our sense of poetry and our timidity.

Francesco Clemente lives between New York, USA, and Varanasi, India. His solo show at Complesso Museala Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, Italy, runs until 16 October. His solo exhibition at Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia, runs until 9 October.