PEL / Becoming the figure
03. Jul 2022 – 08. Jan 2023
Berlinde De Bruyckere
»The Skin Encloses the Soul«
Berlinde De Bruyckere (b. 1964, living and working in Ghent, Belgium) is one of the most important international sculptors of our time. Her sculptures are both fascinating and stirring and literally get »under the viewers’ skin«. In her creative work, human beings with their physical and emotional wounds play a central role.
The 34 works on show are testimonies to unique emotional depth. They touch us with their vulnerability and melancholy, ranging between vitality and death, harmony and deformation, figurativeness and abstraction. They bear witness to visible and perceptible processes of transformation in human and animal life. Berlinde De Bruyckere endows them with an almost sacral aura. In her work, the artist abundantly explores ancient mythologies and Christian themes and adapts them to the present that could not be more vivid. In keeping with the exhibition title »PEL / Becoming the figure«, she approaches the becoming of her sculptures through different methods. The palette ranges from the shell that forms a body, to its fragmentation, to fully formed corporeality. In the process, the subject of sexuality, especially the female sex, comes into the artist’s focus.
De Bruyckere’s depiction of the human figure is based on classical formal principles. Here, the choice of wax as a material, which she works on as if in a painterly process, plays a decisive role for the realism of her sculptures. In some works in particular, body fragments become a defining element. Often heavily deformed, they are reminiscent of fleshy lumps and demand a high degree of intrepidity and empathetic perceptiveness from the recipients.
The immediacy of her works is also the result of the close collaboration with a number of dancers with whom the artist has been working since 2004. First and foremost, with the Portuguese dancer Romeu Runa (b. 1978, living and working in Brussels), who will enact two dance performances during the exhibition at the Arp Museum. The interaction of visual art and dance illustrates how body postures reveal deeply moving inner constitutions.
Since 1999, horses have played an eminent role in Berlinde De Bruyckere’s oeuvre. She is fascinated by the beauty, the soulfulness and the strength of these animals. Her intensive study of historical images from the archives of the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres made her visualise the cruel fate of millions of horses who have fallen victim on the battlefields of the First World War. On the basis of cast bodies she created extremely impressive and touching sculptures.
Alongside Berlinde De Bruyckere’s creaturely sculptural works, drawings play a significant role. For the exhibition at Rolandseck, 10 new works on paper have been created that oscillate between collage and relief. They fascinate with their finely spun lines, floral patterns and their delicate and subtle colours. In correspondence to this, a large textile work, made of used and weathered blankets with different patterns and colours, makes a strong impression. It is reminiscent of removed frescoes, which like in a relief the artist arranges in relation to each other. But they also evoke the people they once protected, warmed and enveloped. They are testimonies to unknown biographies and indefinable conditions of human life.
In the intermediate realm on the heights of the Rhine between the sky and the earth, the light-flooded rooms of the Richard Meier Building with a generous and conciliatory architectural gesture accommodate Berlinde de Bruyckere’s cosmos of bringing to life suffering, reconciliation, hope and compassion. Here, once again, the terrifying element is transformed into the beautiful and sublime.