Belinde De Bruyckere, ‘Yara’ (‘The Wound’). ARTER, Istiklal Caddesi, No. 221 Beyoglu 34433 Istanbul. 21st June - 26th August 2012.
Review by Tom Snow.
Gilles Deleuze once wrote that the figures depicted in the paintings of Francis Bacon bare the animal spirit of man. Belinde De Bruyckere’s sculptures, in their capacity to recall brutal transfigurations, represent a similar anthropomorphism. Moulded in wax and crafted with materials including wood, fabric, horse skin and hair, the objects evoke disturbing metamorphosed bodies. For the artist’s first exhibition in Turkey, ARTER presents a selection of works made since the 1990s alongside a number of newly realised pieces especially for ‘Yara’ (The Wound).
The title of the exhibition takes inspiration from a nineteenth-century photograph album originating from Istanbul (c. 1890). These images (reproduced in the catalogue) show women dressed in traditional Islamic veils exposing scars, or wounds, at the height of their naval. Close-ups reveal anatomic detail, whilst others show the women alongside their removed tumours contained in formaldehyde. Other aspects of the exhibition include two new works - including a huge headless horse skin - outside of the gallery in the city’s beautiful nineteenth-century Çukurcuma Hammam, at the artist’s request. There are also drawings, which treat the human figure with equivalent displacement - dependent upon the dismantling of the body towards a kind of reduced, dehumanised portraiture. A further highlight is the inclusion of performances by artist and choreographer Vincent Dunoyer alongside his video work ‘Vanity’ (1999). De Bruyckere has worked with the artist previously, using his body to mould her objects, however on this occasion Dunoyer effectively lends his body to the exhibition, offering the viewer a heightened engagement with the inertia of the sculptures and the physicality of the viewers’ imaginings.
Despite the frequent appearance of antler and tree branch forms alongside limbs, each sculpture seems to retain a cold, flesh-like quality through the careful, almost painterly laying of wax. There is an insistence by curator Selen Ansen to establish the ‘unfamiliarity’ of De Bruyckere’s (de)compositions where, ‘humanity seems to lose ground,’ and ‘recompose itself, in the face of advancing otherness.’ However, the type of corporeality implicit in the work must simultaneously be understood to conjure an uncanny, humanoid quality. In this respect the sculptures might be thought of as a kind of extension of the body. The work ‘We Are All Flesh’ (2009-10) for instance, is clearly cast after a human back. Fragmentary in the sense of suggesting a body in pieces, it is also through the viewer’s identification with ‘flesh’ that a certain familiarity can be claimed, at which point Dunoyer’s presence begins to make a lot more sense within the space. An abstract rendering of the body or figure, where it is identity rather than total iconoclasm that is subordinate to form, seems to be important here. It is, in fact, through this peculiar oscillation that curiosity is maintained; through De Bruyckere’s continued preoccupation with representing a fragile, vulnerable anatomy.