The Representation of Bodies
The idea of bringing together these articles on Henk Visch and Berlinde De Bruyckere, came from a realization that sculpture today is positioned to offer a very new way of representing bodies. After our recent articles on the work of Johan Creten (cf. ap2 31) and David Altmejd (cf. ap 417), recent exhibitions by Visch at the Fondation Maeght and De Bruyckere at Hauser & Wirth in New York seemed like good subjects for pursuing this theme. Obviously, painters too are engaging with this question of representing bodies at a time when science is telling us more and more about their workings and the human form is everywhere on our screens and in our urban environment. And, yes, Marlene Dumas, who has the same Netherlandish/ Flemish roots as De Bruyckere and Visch, as well as the English painters Jenny Saville and Glenn Brown, pursuing the heritage of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, are certainly working with the body, but it seems to us that the main subject of much pictorial practice is the image itself. It is more concerned by its rivalry with other ways of producing images, and haunted by the functions it shares with them (historical witness, personal revelation, documentary), than directly and deliberately engaged with the truth of the body in the way the sculptors mentioned here are (and we must bear in mind, of course, that realism has lost its credibility). As Olivier Kaeppelin points out with regard to Visch, sculpture has managed to integrate the legacies of formal experiments stretching from Surrealism to performance, to the extent that it is undermining the language that claims to appropriate it (in contrast to many purportedly experimental contemporary approaches which in fact submit to its canons much more). For her part, Frédérique Joseph-Lowery, with whom we visit Berlinde De Bruyckere’s exhibition in New York, tells us about the powerful effect of the artist’s treatment of surface in her sculpture, which is linked in part to her interest in Zurbarán. That said, these represented bodies are not “seductive.” They can upset us, create unease. However, it would be a mistake to define their exaggerations, deformations and hybridizations, their barer-than-bare nudity, as expressionist. Expressionism contorts the body in keeping with the artist’s subjective and often satirical gaze, whereas the transformation of bodies shown here seems to be produced by the pressure of an inner vision. This is the inner vision of a body that, by its great fantastical freedom, is able to metamorphose its own contours.
Henk Visch. « Inside Story » . 2015. (Court. Tim van Laere Gallery, Anvers) Ci-dessous / below: Berlinde De Bruyckere. « Kreupelhout - Cripplewood, 2012-2013 ». 2013. Cire, époxy, fer, bois, couvertures, ficelle. 2,30 x17,90 x 4,10 m. (Ph. M. Devriendt). Wax, epoxy, iron, wood, blankets, rope