by Shraddha NairMar 10, 2022
Known to anyone with even the slightest affection for the arts, The Garden Of Earthly Delights is nothing short of a storytelling masterpiece. In the way of oil painting, its meticulous detail is remarkable. In the way of anthropology, it tells of a time in the history of man when the dilemma at hand was the temptation of lust and its many indulgences. In the way of psychology, it tells us of our continuous struggle - the pull of the body over the discipline of the mind. The Dutch artist, Hieronymus Bosch, born around 1950 in the Netherlands, was from a family of painters. Throughout his career, Bosch dabbled in stained glass, brass work and embroidery. The Garden Of Earthly Delights is his most renowned and the largest surviving work. The three-panelled oil painting was crafted during the last decade of the 15th century, but holds relevant truth that traverses centuries. In the 21st century today, do we not still find ourselves trapped in the same dilemma? Furthermore, do we not find ourselves trapped in the consequences of our ancestors who succumbed to the same earthly, fleshy, material pleasures? Matadero Madrid and Colección SOLO come together to pay tribute to this work of art, bringing together works from a variety of artists inspired by Bosch’s creation. The exhibition opened to the public on October 7, 2021, and it will be on view until February 27, 2022. David Cantolla, co-founder of Colección SOLO, speaks about the showcase with STIR.
The journey that led up to The Garden Of Earthly Delights, through the artworks of Colección SOLO began when the founders of SOLO - Ana Gervas and David Cantolla - came across a contemporary, digital rendition of the painting made by a Dutch collective called SMACK. Cantolla tells us, “We acquired the artwork and supported the same artists, a trio from The Netherlands called SMACK, to develop the left and right panels, which correspond to Eden and Hell in the original triptych. The result was SPECULUM, the digital triptych which closes the exhibition."
"So, the project began by commissioning those two panels from SMACK, and in the process, we found ourselves asking other artists what their personal vision of Bosch's original work was. Eventually we ended up with this group of pieces inspired by Bosch's masterpiece, and these are now on display at Matadero Madrid.”
The exhibition plays host to fifteen artists from across the globe, including Filip Custic, Miao Xiaochun, Luesita, and Cassie McQuater. While a handful of works on view are existing works, most were commissioned by SOLO exclusively for this project. Cantolla tells us about the curatorial process saying, “The criteria for the selection of the works responded to two main ideas: the first is to provide a contemporary vision of the triptych by artists from very different cultures and working in very different techniques. The other was to look for art that resonated with our collection, which embraces contemporary works including comics, manga, video games, electronic music, graffiti, 3D animation, AI-art and NFTs.”
The artist’s response to the original artwork can be seen as a spectrum. The many layers of the work allow for contemporary artists to derive from it, and play with any dimension they so choose. While Enrique del Castillo chooses to respond with a sound art piece titled Umbráfono II (2021), Xiaochun chooses to replicate the work in a very similar fashion. Xiaochun creates nine panels, digitally rendered, with a darkly humorous look at contemporary industry and the anthropocene. A closer look at the work shows human figures running amok with oversized injection needles, plastic bottles and tin cans. The art exhibition at Matadero Madrid invites the viewer to contemplate a time when sexual activity, and sexuality, was repressed by the church, when Bosch’s triptych was first conceived, and compare it with what is seen today as demons of the 21st century. A personal favourite on view is Luesita’s El Jardín de las Delicias (2020) which is a sculpture crafted in ceramic, with a mildly obscure and surreal aesthetic. The entire curation allows the viewer to enjoy a range of materials, narratives, interpretations and visual languages. The 15th century artwork continues to provide food for thought, functioning as a channel for both philosophical and creative practice.
Cantolla tells us why he finds Bosch’s work to be of continued relevance today, “One of the aims of this art exhibition is exactly that: to celebrate the rich imagery and enduring appeal of The Garden of Earthly Delights. In Bosch’s day, it seems the original could have been a kind of guide to good, moral behaviour, close to the literary genre called ‘mirror of princes’. It could also have had a role as a ‘trigger’ for conversations and reflections: it invited dialogue among its viewers. Later, in the late 1920s, historians and critics claimed Bosch as a precursor of surrealism, and Dali, Max Ernst or Miro made references to the Flemish artist. Today, as we can see in this exhibition five centuries later, it continues to be a source of inspiration for contemporary creators and continues to fascinate the public."
"The Garden of Earthly Delights ," he continues, "is a ‘painting of paintings’ in which hundreds of stories play out at the same time. It presents us a mirror of who we are and maintains its capacity to portray society today."
Summarising his hopes for the viewer's experiences at the exhibition, Cantolla says, “The main objective is certainly to create an experience that activates the visitor’s imagination, encourages reflection and, as some analyses indicate that Bosch intended, opens different themes of conversation. We invite the public to revisit a timeless masterpiece and, at the same time, enjoy the diversity of visual languages and creative tools used by today’s artists.”