Gilding the Lily
4 July - 13 September 2020
The Old House offers a refuge to a triptych that was especially made for the Basilica di San Celso in Milan, on the occasion of the annual design fair Salone del Mobile 2020. Because of the consequences of Covid-19 the work could not be shown. The three impressive tapestries will be on display in the old house during the summer months.
1.70 m x 3.5 m (each piece) cotton, paper, linen.
Woven in collaboration with TextielMuseum Tilburg.
Curated by Kunsthal Gent, in collaboration with Margo Veeckman (intern Curatorial Studies at KASK)
Dear Thomas and Victor,
While wandering through these grand halls, I'm looking forward to what I know I am about to encounter. Knowing doesn't bereave me of the tingling feeling in my knees. I stumble upon three acquaintances. Although I remember them vaguely, they've clearly changed over the years. Their vigorous dance moves have come to a standstill, but you can still see them holding on to their inherent whirls.
Perhaps now we can admire their beauty even more and they did not allow this before when they were too busy dancing. Through warp and weft they are trapped in their position, just a moment before the culmination of their last twirl. The movement is caught within the binding now.
This fixed moment, which lies in between something and nothing, will live a life of its own now. The textile will, on its turn, absorb what comes near and take up its environment until it finds its final destination.
Without the pandemic, this work would have had a five-day stay at the San Celso Basilica in Milan on the occasion of the annual design fair Salone del Mobile 2020. Now the triptych finds refuge in the Old House of Kunsthal Gent. There couldn't have been a better destination. Adoration is something that comes spontaneously from your work, but also from the physical impact of the space, which was originally built as a refuge for the monastery.
The title of the exhibition, Gilding the Lily, as well as the eponymous proverb stem from an incorrect quotation from a play by William Shakespeare*. The meaning is based on the premise that we shouldn't try to improve something that is already beautiful and therefore risk spoiling it. The choice of this title is striking, to say the least, given that your work embodies the utmost respect for your source of inspiration. But the title stimulates us in questioning the role of art. Does it pretend to be more beautiful than reality, or does art encourage us to take a closer look at what it represents? Maybe we need to gild the lily more in order to realize how beautiful something really is.
The dynamic play of repetition and growth in your practice makes room in this triptych to an unruly austerity and a solitude that confronts our bodies with our own futility. The striking salmon pink hints to the surroundings of the works’ initial destination and takes us to the Basilica in its original color.
The combination of the distinct contemporary materials such as lurex and fluorescent yarn, together with paper and linen brings the history of the space closer to the present. The depicted, crawling figures could be a contemporary translation of the relics that could still be found on the site of Kunsthal Gent today.
Two specialisations meet and are transformed into an exciting dialogue that is impossible to define as mere design or mere art. One feeds the other. It becomes clear that this horticultural world is not solely the result of a partnership, but that your collaboration is a fruit grown from a very intimate friendship. This cross-pollination and constant exchange of ideas, experiences and sensations is unique and inspires us to move away from our own individualism.
I am already looking forward to the moments to come when I can linger again in your carefully cultivated garden.
*Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
(William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King John, 1595, act IV, scene 2)
Les Monseigneurs is a Ghent-based artist duo consisting of Thomas Renwart (°1995) and Victor Verhelst (°1997). This collaboration arose from an encounter between textile and graphic design with horticulture as a meeting point. With their tapestries and prints they invite the viewer to enter their inexhaustibly flowering garden. The luxuriant burst of their graphic play of colours is enriched by a textile elaboration. Starting from a traditional craft, they offer a contemporary view on the essential adoration of nature.
Les Monseigneurs are represented by Bruthaus Gallery.