Since 24 September 2021, Kunsthal Gent is presenting new work by textile artist Thomas Renwart as part of the Endless Exhibition. The work, Sous les cieux et les nuages (Beneath the Skies and the Clouds) was the first that Renwart was presenting using his birth name instead of his pseudonym of Les Monseigneurs. It is in the guise of Les Monseigneurs that Renwart has gained national and international recognition in recent years with his textile works and tapestries depicting large flowers, insects, and fantasy figures. His work has been exhibited in New York and Berlin, at the Milan Triennial, at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, and at Interieur Kortrijk.
Renwart was already a guest at Kunsthal Gent in 2020, with the temporary presentation of his installation Gilding The Lily at the Oud Huis (Old House), which is part of Kunsthal Gent. The work, which was produced for the Salone Del Mobile design fair in Milan, found a home there when the Italian fair was cancelled because of COVID-19, a switch that would become the prelude to an intensive period of collaboration. The new installation at Kunsthal Gent can be seen as a spatial intervention, an ever-evolving work in an architectural construction. The viewer / visitor can visit, enter and experience this almost sculptural approach from different angles and viewpoints. Several times a year, new canvases are placed on top of the work, allowing it to continue to grow and evolve.
The first series of images on the embroidered and digitally printed textiles emerged from an inexhaustible personal archive of butterfly stamps, which Renwart enlarged to surreal proportions. It is a reflection of our intimate collections, of what we keep as human beings, the kind of thing that stays somewhere in a little box or a drawer, almost forgotten. Yet the power and the poetic aspect of a stamp, of cards and letters sent, rely on conveying messages, good or bad. They always look like little paintings, carefully crafted somewhere, by someone. These textiles are intertwined with an impressive construction by architect and artist Olivier Goethals, made to measure for this spatial intervention.
The distinctive element of the Endless Exhibition is that each exhibition becomes permanent. The aim is to address the overproduction, mass consumption and fleeting attention span of today’s art world. Every new addition always puts pressure on the existing situation. The discussion about how the new relates to the existing work is therefore always a conversation with all of the artists involved. Renwart and Goethals reflected on the possibility of interaction within and through other elements that were already present in the Endless Exhibition. The bridge, now with covered space, becomes a true passage, and one which leads to the other side of Kunsthal.
The Garden Edition
The butterflies originally added in September 2021 are now turned inwards, as if they could protect their visitors. The outer shell and second layer turns into memories and notes of a daffodil gardener, an intimate prospect, originating from a personal collection of the artist, just like the stamps in the first layer. Gardening is a universal practice; it’s something we do for finding inner peace, for shaping our own little Eden, for beauty or for scientific reasons. Some are memorial gardens, some are just lawns in public parks. A garden can be used as a living membrane, a way of not only cultivating flowers but also thoughts, possibilities, feelings, words, colours. The construction of Olivier Goethals is now also activated on the inside, and with the previous layer turned inside out, becoming a place where Renwart’s artistic practice can shed its layers.
Thomas Renwart (1995) graduated in 2019 from the LUCA School of Arts, where he gained his masters in Textiles. From there, he developed a textile practice in which craftsmanship and poetic representations of a universe are constantly coming together. Craftsmanship, technicality, locality, handicraft and a dose of poetic hooliganism all interfere with and challenge each other. From his collections of dried and pressed daffodils and other flowers, of butterflies and textiles, he creates hybrids of landscapes and still lifes. Renwart develops his own fantasy world, which he carefully translates into tangible matter, using techniques such as jacquard weaving, embroidery, quilting, and digital printing. In addition to his textile work, Renwart also has a love for making artist books. His first artist book Comme si de rien n’était was published in early 2021 by MER.B&L. For his artistic research, Renwart was awarded two Henry Van de Velde 2021 Awards.
Thomas Renwart is represented by Bruthausgallery.