by Dilpreet BhullarSep 17, 2022
The concept of time and its variety of manifestations have continued to receive new meaning in the history of human civilisation. The past two years of lockdown and isolation have further heightened the necessity to reorient our way of life. Given the immense interest shared by the creative minds around the concept of time for centuries now, it attracted the attention of the current artist to probe the subject at a great length. The Belgian conceptual designer Nel Verbeke, with her exhibition The Architecture of Time does not deter to keep the discussions around the themes of time and architecture alive.
The art exhibition at the unique setting of Artecetera - a former shipyard on the Durme River, west of Antwerp and home to atelier lachaert dhanis – underscores the artist's interest to represent the "emotional potential of design". The sculpture-object in her hands, not limited to the understanding based on its form and function, are drawn extensively from the research conducted to decipher the past and what lies in the future while keeping a close tab on the current times. What we see is the result of such conceptual enquires made by the artist to let the audience ponder upon their existence and what surrounds them.
The sculptures by the artist interestingly carry a cyclic shape to them which remains short of full closure on either side of them. In an interview with STIR, Verbeke, who studied concept design at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, following an education in Fine Arts at Luca School of Arts in Ghent, Belgium, elaborates on this translation of conceptual thought of architecture and time to the visual representation in the form of sculptures. “The concept of The Architecture of Time results in concepts and materialisations that suggest a moment in itself deserves its own architecture: to shelter us in in our momentary presence and thus untie us from what lies ahead, from the compelling rhythms by which we usually live our lives. The forms of the sculptures carry a fascination for the idea of 'niches’, architectural cavities in walls that are rather symbolic than functional and are historically and interculturally linked to the withdrawal from pragmatic existence or to the veneration of what transcends us as earthly beings. All works reinterpret this idea; as free-standing alcoves that articulate the interplay between light and shadow or make them the outcome of a dedicated gesture. Sometimes they are able to enclose a human body as the scale model, other times they appear as micro-architectural manifestations and are primarily retreats for the gaze and mind," she says.
The designed works could be dubbed as the proto-instruments which are both “thoughtful and delicate”: at least visually, a walk through the passage of time. Against the popular addressal to the “emotional ambivalence” of the existence i.e., of resistance, the objects open a means to contemplate and introspect the workings of humankind.
Her choice of materials also refers to the notion of time. In order to explain this, the conceptual artist says, “The collection is defined by two dominant materials that were chosen in the conceptual phase as they serve as materialised thoughts: raw hand brushed copper and soil/earth. Tradition, delicate craftsmanship and a link to nature and the seasons. The copper refers to ancient traditions and antique artefacts that make the passing of time known in the traces on its surface. Or the dug-up soil of a specific place, layered through history and marked by the seasons; the soft grinding of metal in plaster and the settling of the dust. Materials and processes showing how time reaches for tomorrow but consists of yesterday and has more to do with a flower’s gracious decay than the span of an hour.”
Verbeke is hopeful that the works grant the viewers the time to fully experience and explore the ideas she strives to investigate: to come to the realisation that both time and our lives are given meaning by how it slowly ticks away. With the shape of the works that profuse the singularity of time and built-environment, the artist indicates with poise, “The sculptures reflect on finiteness and decay, so that we can accept them, enrich our lives with them, so that we can inhabit a moment as if it were a space in and for itself.”