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Collection Reflection: Felike Van der Leest


20 May 2020 2:00 pm

Image: Felike Van der Leest, Emperor Penguin Freddie with Polar Pear Claw (2005)

We take a closer look at works within the Middlesbrough Collection in our Collection Reflection series.

Felike Van der Leest started making plastic animal creations for her brother’s children as Christmas presents. She has said that it was through being surrounded by all these little toys that ‘an endless stream of ideas began to flow’ and started to inform part of her artistic practice. She has also collected plastic toy animals for years, her collection increasing as new models are produced. Insects and mammals are included in her work – plastic caterpillars, seals, bears, sharks, penguins, fleas, dogs, birds and other animals are all present, exploring contemporary issues, such as problems in the environment and the welfare of animals worldwide.

Emperor Penguin Freddie is seen here wearing a gown made by van der Leest. Using tailor-made needles and hooks, she is able to create her intricate patterns to fit even the smallest of plastic creatures.

Instead of styling a figure with its own jewels, she integrates them into her work by chopping them up and piecing them back together. Incorporating these small plastic creatures within jewellery, she creates not only new jewellery but also new forms entirely.


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