For me Berlinde de Bruyckere stands for “poetic discomfort”.
The first time I encountered a work by de Bruyckere was the very fragile “donkey” Sculpture which is in the Caldenborgh collection. In the middle of the woods from his estate, the sculpture can be found on a semi-open space between wood and leaves. Made from lead and highly detailed this shows that the lead is soft, fragile and shows the vulnerability of the composition and the materials.
The second time was when a sculpture by de Bruyckere was presented in a showcase together with the walls hung with magnificent Bacon paintings in one of the rooms of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. It was a rare occasion that these two great artists were combined and I rarely have seen a more impressive and beautiful presentation of both these great artists.
She makes three-dimensional sculptures, installations and aquarelles. Her older work has a minimalist character. Steel, stone and glass were her materials of choice. Gradually she leaves abstract motifs to seek recourse in recognisable forms and things, introducing the blanket, malleable lead and straw as materials.
More recently, she has extended her personal iconography with striking sculptures of (stuffed) horses and giant (once-) cuddly animals. The beauty of the materials she uses always has something of the fatal in it. The blankets in her sculptures protect and suffocate, the lead roses seduce and poison, the carpet of begonias bear witness to bloom and decay. She intentionally uses familiar forms to inspire thinking in viewers, to provide them with memories. Her preference lies with materials and forms that mirror ambiguity, something characteristic of the human experience. Beneath the delicate and sometimes deceptively endearing skin of her work is a yawning abyss. Death, fear and loneliness are recurrent themes, though never disconnected from life, love and beauty. Despite the great formal diversity of her works, there is a common thread running throughout her oeuvre in terms of choice of materials, techniques and the repeating of symbols and motifs.
Aside from her three-dimensional works, the artist has also always put her ideas on paper. These works (drawings and aquarelles, or aquarelle and gouache combined on old paper or cardboard) are often preparatory material for the sculptures but are autonomous works in themselves. Berlinde De Bruyckere does not impose ‘the’ interpretation of her works. She consciously leaves the door open for diverse understandings.
www.ftn-books.com has now the book available which was published on the occasion of the 55th Biennale di Venezia. Text by J.M. Coetzee and of course the photographs on the installation by de Bruycker