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Jan Ernst’s latest exhibition at Galerie Revel elevates the womb as a work of art
WOMB Lamps by Jan Ernst
Image: Courtesy of Jacobus Snyman

Jan Ernst’s latest exhibition at Galerie Revel elevates the womb as a work of art

The extensive lamp collection consisting of Jan Ernst’s womb pendants, table lamps and sconces were featured during the Collectible Design Fair 2022.


by Jan Ernst
Published on : Jun 27, 2022

With the ongoing outrage against the unsettling revocation of the Roe v. Wade abortion law in the United States of America, now more than ever, it becomes essential to understand, express and magnify the fragility and purity of the womb while revering the process of giving birth. “The more I engaged with the initial concept of life and birth, fire and ancestry the more I realised it needed to be expressed further but through different perspectives,” shared the South African artist and architect Jan Ernst upon the unveiling of his ‘Womb’ lamps collection. Showcased at the Galerie Revel, France, as part of the Collectible Design Fair 2022, the Womb lamp collection is an assortment of white stoneware lamps that pays homage to the dual concepts of birth as the human genesis and fire as instrumental to the survival of the species.

The South African artist works to bring meaning and establishing the significance of a womb with the overall concept of life and birth. “The collection evokes our deep-seated feelings of 'the primal' and unlocks the unknown potential that is hidden in the cavities of our world while celebrating life through luminescence,” shares Ernst. 

The collection consists of two table lamps, two pendant lamps and two wall lamps, all of which represent the womb as a beautiful and highly delicate creation of nature. He praises it as a humble abode for all of humanity through an expression of a subtle and highly functional work of art. 

In a certain way, Ernst subtly explores the idea of the ‘primal’ by conceptualising his objects as fire that later turns into light or the birthing womb that later creates life. He gets inspired by the ‘firsts’ in nature and humanity. Alongside the womb as a source of inspiration, he also draws context from the Stadsaal Caves in Cederberg, South Africa. The crests and troughs that naturally festoon the interiors of the caves were once a shelter for the primaeval humans. “Walking these ancestral grounds prompts a feeling of reverence and mystique for the people who once inhabited the interleaving Stadsaal Caves. Tremendous voids and cracks shaped by the natural elements created a shelter for the first humans who settled in this region,” he says. Ernst was fascinated and humbled to witness such signs of life depicted through intricate murals on the cave walls. “This moment spent in the caves was a revelation for me on both a personal and artistic level, and a trigger for the new collection,” he adds.

Jan Ernst crafts the Womb Lamp I and Womb Lamp II using white stoneware. He designed the lamps as sharp and with undulating edges from which a bright, yet comforting light emanates. The idea behind the lights was to reminisce about the caves in which the first humans must have lit the fire. As a brand new addition to his oeuvre, Jan also introduces the wall sconces made of white stoneware and black clay. These sconces act as an extension to the concept of the womb lamps where the light is delicately nestled within the sinuous curves of the clay, metaphorically representing the child, yet to be born, protected by the stern walls of the mother’s womb. The light that deviates out of the curves of the sconces is a strong interpretation of a child being born. He also brings forth the two pendant lights which he affectionately calls the baby Pendant and the Mama Pendant. The duo is a playful representation of the mother and the child, reinforcing the thought that the duo, despite having the ability to exist independently, are always tied together with affection.

The Collectible Design Fair has always led with a strong urge to support experimental practices in terms of design. Since its establishment in 2018, it has been a consistent platform for showcasing the finest in contemporary collectable design. For its 5th edition, the fair was hosted at the Vanderborght Building in Brussels from the 20th to the 22nd of May 2022. The main event featured the works by Atelier Ecru Gallery, Good Sessions, Objects with Narratives and Tableau. At the same time, some of its subsidiary platforms for display included the Maniera Gallery, Mia Karlova Galerie as well as the Galerie Revel. Some of the designers displaying their works for the fair include  Bernard Dubois, Studio Mumbai, Studio ThusThat, Pietro Franceschini, Olga Engel, Maarten De Ceulaer and many more.

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