Once, it was believed that the famous painting by Jan and Hubert van Eyck, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432), rested on a predella: a painted structure at the bottom of the multipanel altarpiece. This base allegedly showed an image of hell. Due to a badly performed restoration in the 16th century, it was lost forever. The exhibition PREDELLA shows the work of Mark Grootes and Emma Van Den Broeck in the garden of Kunsthal Gent, both inspired by the dubious myth of this vanished piece of art.
Already in 2016, the Ghent Altarpiece formed an inspiration for a botanical project in the garden of the former Caermersklooster. A significant share of the flora depicted on the Ghent Altarpiece was planted in this narrow strip of land. After years of withering and lack of maintenance, the garden went wild. Only the fig tree - a symbol of peace and chastity - and the olive tree - a noble tree symbolizing hope - persistently remained in the desolate garden. PREDELLA turns the withered soil to lava rock and mysterious ferns find their way into the garden. A black flower perfects the plants present: the Hellebore. The garden becomes a link between heaven and hell, between good and evil.
Mythical creatures, inspired by portals to hell from all over the world arise in the new landscape of this hidden piece of nature. The thirteen Hellmouths (2020) by Mark Grootes function as incense burners. Visitors are invited to activate the sculptures by igniting an incense cone in one of the Hellmouths. As the scented smoke slips between the teeth of the creatures, the sculptures seem to say “descend into me”.
The Ladder (2020) by Emma Van Den Broeck occupies a prominent place in the center of the garden. The work stands next to the olive tree and, like the tree, offers a vertical artifice towards the sky. Like an old, battered wall of the monastery, the stones of the wall whisper “ascend onto me”. The ladder is the mediator between earth and sky, an obstacle one must overcome to reach a higher state. The measurements of The Ladder are human; every carving has the perfect size for your hands and feet.
This exhibition was not possible without the generous support of the City of Ghent.
More information: https://www.predella.be
Mark Grootes (NL, °1991) is a visual artist who lives and works in Brussels. In his practice, he investigates the tensions between contemporary art and historical architecture, and the ruin as a symbol. He is fascinated by remarkable locations in which a certain misunderstanding occurs, a megalomania, an outsider. Each of his works refers to an existing place; be it in form, use of material or mis-en-scène.
After graduating as a photographer, Emma Van Den Broeck (BE, °1994) started the In Situ course at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Her work is based on two main principles: the specific situation and an individual approach. By researching different locations and their historical, social and aesthetic context, she experiments with various materials and techniques in order to respond artistically to the given circumstances. Natural elements such as rain, rocks, fungi or sand are regularly a starting and / or ending point in her practice.