I once saw a gravestone in the old buildings of St Baafs Abbey in Ghent with two male figures carved as basrelief.
This tombstone of Egidius Munte (+1419), pastor of the Gentbrugge church and Willem Ketels (+1403), pastor of the Sint-Jacobskerk in Ghent, shows the clergymen depicted in half elevated relief as gisants. The edge lettering is interrupted on the corners by the symbols of the evangelists and in the middle of the long sides by the coats of arms of the dead.
I always remembered the two figures. The folds of their robes, the expression on their faces, the patina that was probably partly caused by the many touches of people over the centuries. A serenity and harmony that moves and fascinates me.
A third reason to use bas relief, is that the relief sculpture in stone has a history going 20,000 years back in time, in both Eastern and Western culture. With relief, the focus is on contours more than on line, and people make eager use of light and the creation of shadows (this is also called chiaroscuro). The kind of relief that I have in mind is a sunken relief or Intaglio.
I went to England and visit the British Museum to research the ways in which people carved sculptures through the ages and in different cultures, to then make my own modest contribution to this beautiful long tradition.
The altar being an altar
The old chapel of the Eeklo College, built in 1866, had become too small. In 1936, a new chapel was erected above the study of interns on the first floor. On Thursday, July 1, 1937, the new chapel was inaugurated and opened.
The altar of this chapel was built exclusively from Belgian stones. Bluestone for the table top , Walloon grey marblestone for the massive pillars, black Belgian "Noir de Mazy" for the pedestals. The altar was so heavy that it had to be placed in the chapel before the walls were built around it. On 16 April 2018, the old college buildings went down, they had to make way for a green zone on the new campus of the OLV Ten Doorn college. The chapel on the first floor also had to disappear. However, the school saved the altar from demolition. A spectacle followed with a hole in the side wall on the first floor, a floating altar of 3800 kg and a giant crane. Once on the ground floor, the altar was "disassembled" and the various pieces transferred to my studio with great difficulty.
Regional newspaper and TV:
The altar in my studio
A while ago the altar ended up in various parts in my studio. A challenge.
I made a work for the exhibition "Healing / healing", which took place in Poperinge in 2018, as part of the commemoration of the first world war. The title of the installation is "Healing - diorama of a lost world". For the installation I made craters in four black marble blocks. Black marble is a very valuable stone because of its rarity ...
The installation was inspired by aerial photos of the totally destroyed West Flemish landscape during the first world war. Until recently, the black marble blocks were the supporting pillars of the altar. The work can be seen as a critical reflection on the complex contemporary society.
The 1800 kg heavy blue limestone table top is in my studio. Bluestone is a very common stone in our Walloon and French-Flemish subsurface. The hard limestone is approximately 400 million years old. It contains many fossilized shells, polyps (bee nests) and sponge fossils. The sedimentary rock originated in a shallow maritime area due to the tangling of crinoids in a calcite cement. The bluish color is determined by the presence of plant remains. If you sculpt in it, a rotting scent is released. A 400 million year old fragrance. Confrontations with the temporary are never far away. The stone is also called stink lime.
I decided to make a relief sculpture for various reasons. First: because I want to keep the original shape of the altarpiece at all costs, I am limited in my possibilities. When making a relief, I can leave the edges untouched, keep the crosses, ... Within the limitations imposed on me, creating a relief figure offers me many possibilities.
Secondly: I once saw a gravestone in the old buildings of St Baafs Abbey with two male figures carved from the stone as bas relief.
Work in progress, Thoughts, ideas with no particular shape, exhibition setups and photos of openings, nice visits to interesting colleagues and scientists...