Monday, June 13, 2011

Berlinde de Bruyckere in the Saatchi Gallery, London

I've just returned from a marvellous week of theatre in London, where I also dropped into the Saatchi Gallery.  I immediately recognised the work of the Flemish artist Berlinde de Bruyckere, who I wrote about in a recent post.

While her horse in Zurich's Kunsthaus is gray, in the Saatchi Gallery she has two black horses. The first is headless and legless, a piece of beautiful meat, exhibited in a vitrine. The second has all of the beautiful curves of a Henry Moore sculpture, but the soft sheen of the coat lacks the hardness of bronze. The beauty of these horses brings an overwhelming sense of sadness. The fact that they are now naked to our observation gave me the same feeling of unease that I had when viewing the Egyptian Mummies in the British Museum.  It does seem obscene to be pleasantly walking about, viewing these magnificent creatures in their deathly silence and stillness.

De Bruyckere's third work, Marthe, is a sculpture in wax of a headless woman, standing in an open vitrine, her uterus gone, her guts poring out, one long arm extended, claw-like to the ground. There is something Ovidian about this transformation. The realism of the execution, with its whites, reds and blues, makes the image all the more horrifying.

It has often been said that art is always about love and death. De Bruyckere's work is certainly about death. The horses, in their silent deathliness, possess a terrible beauty. And the visceral, painful realism of Marthe, is a reminder of the fragilty of life, the presence of suffering.


  1. Hello:
    Although we have not actually seen these works for ourselves, which makes it difficult to comment, our immediate reaction is to find all three which you show here disturbing. This, of course, may well be the intention of the artist, and if it is so, then she succeeds in her intent.

    Naturally, it is possible that such pieces heighten our awareness of suffering, both human and animal, in our world and which for a large part we ignore.

  2. Hi Lance and Jane,
    Yes, they are disturbing. I have very mixed feelings towards these works. They are not easy to understand.
    Thanks, as ever, for your comment.

  3. Where are the limits between art and insanity?
    Sorry I don't follow on that.
    I am always irritated at "artists' who put any provocative creation on show and call it "art".
    As for everything it is very easy to do ugly and chocking when it takes huge skill and talent to translate it in a refined way.
    It even becomes a trend, how more scruffy, disruptive or provocative can you be? it a way of attracting attention because without this provocation nobody would ever notice them because they simply lack talent??

  4. Hi DeeBee,
    Well, her work is certainly provocative. But how many artists from the past who are today regarding as monumental figures in art history were accused of producing ugly works in order to simply be provocative - Whistler, Manet, Picasso, Braque, Pollack, etc. etc.