Nel Verbeke's 'The Architecture of Time' reflects on humans as finite beings

The Belgian conceptual designer Nel Verbeke with her exhibition The Architecture of Time displays the sculpture to keep the audience moored with their surroundings.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Apr 26, 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 architecture of Time - The Rasp – Large (On box), 2021, Copper, steel, burned wood | STIRworld
The Architecture of Time - The Rasp – Large (On box), 2021, Copper, steel, burned wood Image: Courtesy of Nel Verbeke and Artcetera

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 architecture of Time - The Rasp - Small, 2021, Copper, steel, burned wood | Nel Verbeke | STIRworld
The Architecture of Time - The Rasp - Small, 2021, Copper, steel, burned wood Image: Courtesy of Nel Verbeke and Artcetera

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.

Installation View, The Architecture of Time | Nel Verbeke | STIRworld
Installation View, The Architecture of Time Image: Courtesy of Nel Verbeke and Artcetera

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.

The Architecture of Time - In Praise of Shadows - Scale model, 2021, Faux Marble - Sandstone by Pierre Yves Morel | STIRworld
The Architecture of Time - In Praise of Shadows - Scale model, 2021, Faux Marble - Sandstone by Pierre Yves Morel Image: Courtesy of Nel Verbeke and Artcetera

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.”

Installation View, The Architecture of Time | Nel Verbeke | STIRworld
Installation View, The Architecture of Time Image: Courtesy of Nel Verbeke and Artcetera
Portrait of Nel Verbeke | STIRworld
Portrait of Nel Verbeke Image: Courtesy of Club Paradis

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.”

The architecture of Time - The sound of Time - Veiled, 2021, Resin | STIRworld
The Architecture of Time - The Sound of Time - Veiled, 2021, Resin Image: Courtesy of Nel Verbeke and Artcetera
01 min watch Behind the scenes video of the works on show in Tokyo now at Object d’art Gallery by Nel Verbeke | STIRworld
Behind the scenes video of the works on show in Tokyo now at Object d’art Gallery by Nel Verbeke Video: Courtesy of Club Paradis

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