by Pallavi MehraNov 30, 2020
Space by its very definition is a physical entity, one that we can occupy and touch. Yet we associate words that imply the lack of this physicality such as, the void, or the empty, as the availability of space. The same is true for silence, which again means the absence of sound. Yet it is the sinuous variation of pauses between sounds that distinguishes music from noise. This dichotomy of being and not being is at the core of the latest group exhibition at Axel Vervoordt’s Gallery at Kanaal in Belgium, titled Silence and Space.
Known internationally for his ability to create an atmosphere rather than decorating spaces, Axel Vervoordt is known for his skill to express notional and intangible concepts as spatial characteristics. The curatorial and exhibition design of the group show Silence and Space is no different. In an official statement, Axel describes the driving principle of the show saying, “Silence can be a way to approach unlimited space. For this exhibition, we have selected artists who are creating the greatest void in oneself, challenging the limits of artistic expression and pushing the boundaries of abstraction to acquire the greatest space of freedom”.
The concept for the show is a play on the idea of the ‘fullness of the void’. It also references the Flemish word ‘volledig’, which seems to be a portmanteau of two seemingly opposite concepts in a single word. ‘Vol’ means full and ‘ledig’ means empty, it’s the fullness of the emptiness. Anne-Sophie Dusselier, from Axel Vervoordt NV, elaborates on the correlation between silence and space in a digital walkthrough saying, “First of all, we questioned ourselves what does silence mean. Generally speaking, you could say that silence is the absence of sound. It is more than just an absence of something, it becomes a presence. Like a musician uses pauses between the notes to enrich a composition, an artist does the same. Actually, it's from a blank canvas that significance and meaning can emerge. A space where there are a lot of things to discover. Where this world of creation starts from”.
Featuring a diverse group of artists from across Europe and Asia, the show explores the notion of space both as a physical entity and as a metaphysical experience. Exhibited inside the Henro Gallery at Kanaal, the show is an interplay between two-dimensional artworks and their exploration of spatial quality. One has to look at the show not only through the lens of art but also through the lens of design. The ability to capture three-dimensionality in what is essentially a flat surface speaks to the depth that one can read into art. Speaking of the same in the digital walkthrough, Boris Vervoordt, Director at Axel Vervoordt NV, explains, “These works have a vibration that can be physically sent in the space. One theme that is extremely important and central to it all is the idea of the void”.
The inspiration for the concept behind this exhibition comes from a multitude of aspects of the Axel Vervoordt Company and practice. As a designer, Axel Vervoordt’s ability to translate artwork into space is particularly evident when talking about Seascapes by Hiroshi Sugimoto. "I think it's a really unbelievable work of art. A masterpiece. Sugimoto made a whole set of seascapes. This is perhaps one of the most black works of the sea... It's extremely silent this Black Sea, as a lot of work by Sugimoto, is about infinity. But infinity is also space and I think there is nothing more infinite in view of the landscape as an ocean which you really feel very well in this work,” says Axel in the digital walkthrough of the exhibition.
The shows displayed in Henro are often guided by the philosophical themes that Axel himself engages with. This is another layer of the curatorial approach which is reflected in the design of the gallery itself and the works selected. Kanaal and Henro in particular are designed as a labyrinth and refer to Japan’s Shikoku Pilgrimage, a multisite pilgrimage consisting of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai.
The space at Kanaal features a cube at its centre and is a reference to the ideas of sacred geometry. These philosophical ideas are also seen in the artwork presented, such as Jaromír Novotný Untitled work. Novotný’s approach to empty and solid space is in line with Taoism and the Chan (Zen) school of Buddhism, in which increasing attention was paid to the philosophical concept of emptiness and the void in a painting.
Set against the dark walls of the Henro gallery, the show is a journey to explore the intangible experience of nothingness and the void. Silence itself is given a tactile quality that invites viewers to feel rather than see.
The group exhibition Silence and Space continues through May 29, 2021 at Kanaal’s Henro and Ma-ka spaces. However, the schedule is subject to change due to the ongoing pandemic.