Berlinde de Bruyckere

Born in Ghent, Belgium, 1964
Lives and works in Ghent, Belgium

" I don’t need human bodies to talk about humanity.”

" That's what makes a good sculpture, i think: the fact it doesn't rely on a meaning or subject matter, but that it is so board that you can take it in any number of different directions, and lose your way in it. "

" It’s been hard making this type of work," she says. "A lot of people think I’m depressed. But I’m a happy woman and a happy mother. Certain things in the world make me feel helpless. I hope people look to my work and find something that can help them."

" I only use animals in a human way. i started to work on horses in 1999, when the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres asked me to reflect on war today. i was working more than one year in their archives and did a lot of research on this matter. The most important images for me were the abandoned city and the dead bodies of the horses. these images were staying with me. i took the motif of the dead horse as a symbol for loss in war, wherever it happens. because if we address war, it's about losing people. i wanted to translate that feeling so i started to work on six portraits of dead horses. some years afterwards when people were asking about other animals in my work, i said 'no'. i need the horse because of its beauty and its importance to us. it has a mind, a character and a soul. it is closest to us human beings. i couldn't imagine another animal being so important."

" Life is beautiful even if we have to deal with fear and pain......it makes it easier if we take care of each other and if we have a language with each other to communicate about pain , suffering and fear. "

“If you are honest with yourself as an artist,” she explains, “there are not many possibilities. You have your questions, angers and fears, and while the format or form might change, the topic remains the same. I’m not looking to alter my whole way of thinking with each exhibition, or searching for something new. One work just grows into another and then another.”

“ For most artists it is the reverse; if you are working in stone one wrong cut can force you to start all over again. But wax is like clay – it’s a process of cooperation, an ongoing dialogue between artist and material.”

“ It is not because you never see a head that it looks like it has been cut off. It is, rather, that I no longer think the presence of a head is necessary. The figure as a whole is a mental state. The presence or absence of a head is irrelevant.”

" One of the things that struck me in the exhibition is that because Cranach returns to certain themes so often – as indeed I do –, you begin to wonder just how far a single theme can be pared down or, conversely, how many ways there are of exploring different forms and materials within the same theme....When I look at his paintings, I experience their physicality as the medium to express the thoughts and concerns of those figures: their fears, their passions, their doubts… It is all to do with man’s mental state, which is evoked by the visible body."

" if you can categorize a sculpture or any work of art and attach a name to it, you suffocate it, you shut it off and rob it of its raison d’être. You need to be able to let a work go. I can do that... I can only make the sculpture, keep it with me for a while to charge it and after that occasionally show it in different contexts. You have to put up with your work being read or interpreted in different ways… If an image just relies on the meaning the artist gave it, you forget it as soon as you have seen it. Good images stay with you and the questions keep coming."

" Behind the distorted, antique glass, you see sculptures in the shape of trees or branches. the trees are nearly the color of human skin, so you end up with something fragile. Because the antique glass distorts your view, a couple of doors are left open, inviting you to look inside. i don't want people to see the sculptures as trees, but as strange, vulnerable beings. the vitrines have a shelf at the bottom on which i placed three piles of blankets. it looks as if they are shielding and nurturing the roots of the trees...i also refer to those blankets as a "soothing circumstance" because they can sometimes lead us to a less harsh reality."

" We used to have the certainties of faith and tradition, now we are all looking for rules and norms to help us survive in this world, though we are always wondering if they are the right ones. "

" For me it's important when i started using the trees, they brought the part of life into the work. it was the moment when i started to pay more attention to the color in the work, because it gave them more life. but the tree brought the element of hope into my work. i was very happy when i found the myth of Ovidius where the body is dead and a tree is growing out of it, it becomes a symbol of life and hope."

" I couldn’t work without that element of doubt, even if it is sometimes very difficult to cope with. I believe doubt is an integral part of making sculptures or works of art in general, whereas certainty gives you nothing to say. You are driven by a desire for something that may be unachievable. "

“When I was a painter I was always gluing materials to the paper – the surface of the painting was never sufficient for me. There is no possibility of touch, no softness in the material to give you hope.”

“ People have often asked me whether I would work with another animal, and for the past ten years I have said no. The horse is the most natural canvas for human attributes and feelings – not only beautiful but clever. If you look through history and art history horses have always been there; human beings have always lived close to them, wanted to control them.”

" I don’t think artists should try and understand everything. If I could put the answers into words, I wouldn’t make sculptures any more. So as a general rule, I try to say as little as possible about my work… I am an iconophile and an iconoclast. One sculpture follows on from another. It is a story which needs to develop slowly."

1 comment:

  1. Berlinde de Bruyckere, I could look this work for hours, look and look, and I'd not be thinking, although maybe a little thinking is doing me somewhere, but not here with the work, I'm just feeling as in experiencing it, the paradox, angst and peace rise together like partners, simultaneously, and your work is "true" sculpture, (and I'm saying it badly,) because it cannot ever be spoken or understood with mind, only with presence and witnessing quietly, it starts a conversation without words, unfolds, Life is so fragile; we are so vulnerable, all of us, and yet very strong.


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