Guus Jooss: Serious play


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By Sarah Monk and Materially Speaking. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

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Guus Jooss lives in Holland but comes to Pietrasanta in Italy for several months a year to work in marble.

Guus used to work as a museum teacher and researcher in the Netherlands when he wasn’t creating his own art. Before that, he went to an art academy in Utrecht for a year, but mostly learnt about sculpture through doing the work himself. He also did some teaching and found himself describing for his students skills that he didn’t realise he’d learnt.

When working in marble he considers himself rather old-fashioned as his heroes are artists of earlier generations: Henry Moore, Constantin Brâncuși, Alberto Viani, Isamu Noguchi and Hans Arp, all of whom had a classical, figurative, training but then moved on to pure form. He likes the honesty of one form made in one material.

With an affinity to antiquity, Guus makes collages that reference his love of history. Old civilizations that are lost are recreated by him in images which look a little like tapestries or Persian rugs. He’s fascinated by the regularity of geometric patterns that Islamic artists made in the sixth and seventh centuries. He talks us through his process and the way he expresses the layers of history.

Guus tells how Homo Ludens, a book by Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga, explains the importance of play in society. Like Huizinga, Guus believes that adult creativity should be approached with the same urgency that a child approaches play, that is to say, as a matter of life and death.

A keen swimmer, Guus found that open water swimming strengthened his lungs after what may, or may not have been, a dose of Covid. At the beginning of lockdown he enjoyed the chance to focus on work, but the need for a hug finally forced him to admit that isolation was actually a difficult experience.

Since this episode was recorded in September 2020, we’ve had another winter of lockdown. Like others who moved out of towns and cities during the pandemic, Guus relocated from Utrecht to the countryside where he has fresher air and more studio space.

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