Hotel Hotel aesthetic curator, Don Cameron, discovered Gerard Havekes’ ceramic work through mid-Century collector Ken Neale, instantly appreciating its raw, textured aesthetic and naive brutality. The chromatic palette and metallic glazes are rarefied.
Cameron engaged in a two-year negotiation with Havekes’ family about the sourcing of the remainders, overages, and Gerard’s unrealised ceramic works. One of Havekes’ daughters, Anna-Maryke, has guided family discussions relating to his legacy and has assisted Cameron in the assemblage and design of the final work. The result is a beautiful patchwork of collected ceramic tiles that have been lain in the foyer leading to the Hotel Hotel secret garden.
Gerard Havekes was born in s’Hertogenbosch, Southern Holland, in 1925. Apart from military duties during WWII Havekes was a lifelong artist.
Part of the wave of European migration to Australia that occurred in the wake of WWII Havekes migrated to Australia in 1950. At first, Havekes was a factory worker, making car parts and band-aids, and he also worked as a cleaner, mail sorter, builder’s labourer and nurse. At night he would paint and sculpt. During this time he had successful exhibitions of his expressionist paintings at the Bissietta Gallery, the Lady Marion Hall Best Gallery and the David Jones Gallery. He also attended the East Sydney Technical College with a view to developing skills in ceramics.
Havekes gleaned some basic technical knowledge but left to further develop this medium on his own, quickly establishing individual style. Working closely with interior designers and architects such as Peddle Thorpe & Walker and Kahn & Finch, Havekes integrated his work, for beautification, into the exteriors and interiors of numerous large building projects in major cities and regional towns such as Broken Hill.
Havekes acquired kilns, learnt how to mix glazes and to fire clay and create his own, handmade variety. He was probably the first in Australia to do this on a significant scale.
He continually remodelled and refurbished his Kenthurst home and it was often featured in magazines such as Belle, Vogue and House & Garden, with some calling it “the most photographed house in Australia’’. The house was a fluid, ill-defined mix of work studio and living quarters. His ceramic studio comprised of nine electric kilns built and modified by Havekes himself.
Moving to a huge warehouse in Leichhardt in the late ‘80s allowed Havekes to be more involved with the city. He continued to work with ceramics and paint, drawing, sculpting; and during this period he also developed a practice in large-scale, three-dimensional tapestry. These works were made in Hong Kong, where he travelled to supervise their construction. There are two in the foyer of the United Overseas Bank building in Martin Place. Havekes passed away in 2011.