OPENING : 20.03.2022
13:00 - 19:00
In presence of the artists

20.03 - 07.05.2022
Thursday to Saturday
14:00 - 18:00
or by appointment

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Earth, which is associated with the memory of the soil and civilisations, inspires contemporary artists seeking authenticity and a return to our roots. Some artists make earth the raw material for their paintings, sculptures and even photographs, giving it a second life. They cast aside the noble materials that are traditionally used in the fine arts and move closer to nature. The ‘Memory of Earth’ exhibition brings together artists as Caroline Le Méhauté, Shin Meekyoung, Lucas Leffler, Paola Pezzi, Lee Jin Woo who use earth, peat, mud, clay and coal, so-called ‘poor’ materials that are actually exceptionally rich and steeped in history.

For French artist Caroline Le Méhauté (Toulouse, 1982), peat is a constant favourite when it comes to materials. She fell in love with it during a residency in Ireland in 2013. A rare vestige of a 15,000-year-old ecosystem, peat calls into question the relationship between contemporary man and his natural environment. Caroline Le Méhauté’s sculptures carry the memory of the past in their millennial material and unique shapes, while simultaneously encouraging us to reinvent ourselves and seek beauty where it is still found today. That’s because they instantly communicate all of the vital energy conserved in this fossilised earth to us. Nature and culture meet and co-exist in these sculptures. The artist remains as close as she can to nature and also produces stunning watercolours inspired by the alteration of mountain rocks.

The relationship between nature and culture also inspires Korean artist Shin Meekyoung (Seoul, 1967) in her new sculpture series Megalith, which is currently on display at the Keramiekmuseum Princessehof in the Netherlands. Having left her long-time material of soap behind, the plastic artist now works with clay, which she uses to create sculptures that resemble natural rocks. Clay, which is both contemporary and ancestral, is used in eastern and western cultures and appeals to the artist because of its universal nature. In returning to her roots, Shin Meekyoung sheds the weight of tradition from her art, as well as the values that come with these traditions. She blurs the processes, breaks down barriers and re-establishes what is possible.

Young artist Lucas Leffler (Virton, 1993) also uses earth – indeed, in a completely surprising manner – by applying it to photography in an experimental form. Mud, which is collected in what remains of the Zilverbeek (‘silver stream’), where the Agfa-Gevaert photographic plant has been dumping its argentiferous waste water for several decades, is then mixed with photosensitive material, on which the artist projects silver images that are halfway between poetry and documentary. His photo-paintings depict the history of pollution, but also talk about burial and the memory of the soil, which retains traces of human activities.

For Italian Paola Pezzi (Brescia, 1963), it is about giving materials a new purpose, as well as a new energy, in particular earth, which she has been sculpting since the late 1980s. The artist, who is influenced by arte povera, creates new shapes with increasingly more surprising materials from everyday life, testifying to what she calls ‘the continuous transformation of things’. Paola Pezzi’s sculptures combine rags and piles of earth and refer to the idea of archaeological remains. They comprise elementary shapes, recall the origins of creation and acknowledge our most authentic emotions.

Rooted in eastern tradition, Korean artist Lee Jin Woo (Seoul, 1959), who lives and works in Paris, reinterprets this tradition in contact with European trends like arte povera. Lee Jin Woo remains faithful to the slow speed and precision of eastern art, as part of a creative process that resembles meditation, and works with charcoal. He places this on Hanji paper, a traditional kind of translucent rice or bamboo paper. He then strikes this paper repeatedly with an iron brush, across several layers, and sometimes tears or burns it. His monochromatic works, which fall within the Korean Dansaekwha trend and evoke lunar landscapes, are a place where two cultural worlds come together and serve as a jumping-off point for him to create a world of his own.

Laura Neve, Art historian, author
and lecturer in the field of modern and contemporary art.