Inspired by mythology, Christian tales, iconography, and Renaissance painting, the timeless works of Berlinde De Bruyckere are characteristic of a unique language bridging the archaic with the most contemporary. Making the body, human or animal its central motive, the practice of De Bruyckere points to the vulnerability and fragility of the living while addressing themes of mortality, pain, and beauty.
Despite being known best for her sculptural work, drawing occupies an equally important and autonomous role in Berlinde De Bruyckere’s practice. Exploring themes of transformation and transcendence, her drawings’ “fleshy” aesthetic creates associations with the body. Connected closely to the Met Tere Huid series of sculptures, namely to the production process of these sculptures and the treatment of dead animal skin (one of its components), used for wax skin casts, De Bruyckere’s works on paper are inspired by the cleaning process of the skin. Part of this process is also spreading the skin against a large pillar, in this case, a phallic symbol and a reference to the male sex. With their formal features reminiscent of female genitalia, the work builds up on the tension between the two sexes, furthering the interplay of oppositions, symptomatic for the artist’s work. The organic fragments seduce with their beauty; their ambiguity generates a feeling of visual unease, followed by a heightened sense of curiosity, drawing the eye deep into the work. The carnality of their colors, their sensuality, and the sexuality of what appears to be soft flesh then echo the complex emotional and metaphysical bodily states, subject to continuous transformation, healing, and rebirth.
De Bruyckere’s sculptures and drawings have been the subject of numerous exhibitions in major institutions worldwide. These include ‘PEL – Becoming the Figure, Arp Museum, Remagen, Germany (2022), ‘Plunder/Ekphrasis, MO.CO, Montpellier, France (2022), ‘Engelenkeel’, Bonnefanten, Maastricht, The Netherlands (2021), ‘Aletheia’, Fondazione Sandretto Re rebaudengo, Turin, Italy (2019-2020), ‘Il Mantello’ (5x5x5 event for Manifesta 12), Santa Venera Church, Palermo, Sicily (2018), ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere’, Sara Hilden Art Museum, Tampere, Finland (2018), ‘Embalmed’, Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark (2017), ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere. Suture’, Leopold Museum, Vienna, Austria (2016); ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere. Penthesilea’, Mus.e d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France (2015); ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere. The Embalmer’, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria (2015); ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere. The Embalmer’, Kunstraum Dornbirn, Dornbirn, Austria (2015); ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere’, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, Netherlands (2015); ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere. In the Flesh’, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria (2013); ‘Philippe Vandenberg & Berlinde De Bruyckere. Innocence is precisely: never to avoid the worst’, De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, Netherlands (2012) which traveled to La Maison Rouge – Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris, France (2014); ‘We are all Flesh’, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia (2012); ‘The Wound’, Arter, Istanbul, Turkey (2012); ‘Mysterium Leib. Berlinde De Bruyckere im Dialog mit Cranach und Pasolini’ at Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle, Germany and Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2011); DHC / ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montreal, Canada (2011); and ‘E.n’, De Pont Foundation for Contemporary Art, Tilburg, Netherlands (2005) among other. In 2013 De Bruyckere was selected to represent Belgium at the 55th Venice Biennale where she unveiled her monumental work ‘Kreupelhout –Cripplewood’, a collaboration with Nobel Prize novelist J.M. Coetzee.