Palimpsest (Room II)
Site-specific installations, mixed media, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent (BE), 2011, room-filling set-up
Within the framework of the Aon Award, Sarah Wespthal presents a vivid, associative dialogue with old and modern masters from the permanent collection of the museum. The artist looks at the collection with a ‘baroque eye’, from aside, in order to investigate and rediscover it from a new perspective.
‘Sarah Westphal's approach reminds us first of all of the way palaeographers scrape off the visible text from a palimpsest to lay bare the text underneath. Similarly, architects use the word palimpsest as a powerful metaphor to highlight the material history of a built space. Whenever spaces are renovated, altered or refashioned, material traces remain. In exploring these material traces, Sarah steadily and literally uncovers the hidden history of the built space. She reconstructs what is concealed beneath the surface of the space.’
Antoon Van den Braembussche, A poetics of space. Some basic motifs in Sarah Westphal’s work (2011).
Draperies, Sculpture I and Draperies, Sculpture II are two studies of the sculptural quality of worn-out, discoloured and bleached curtains covered with dust as well as light. Although both sculptures are made of a leftover interior and the applied material is faded, the configuration of light and shadow manages to bring the threadbare fabric to life. With its many folds, the curtain has taken on a life of its own. The museum’s zenithal light is almost tactile as it descends toward the works. A similar solidification of matter is visible in James Ensor’s Children Dressing (1886), a tranquil scene in which both the gently swaying curtains and the children appear momentarily frozen.
Untitled (Light, Vertical Blinds) is a study of glaring light that outshines the interior and overexposes the film material. The vibration of light particles and the grain of the picture are lying on the surfaces of the objects. The image appears as a thin line between fiction and reality. This light box, conceived by Sarah Westphal as an ‘illuminating window’, enters into a dialogue with both Ensor’s study of light Children Dressing (1886) and the architecture of the exhibition space (especially the large windows). The abundant light, the discoloured surfaces and photographic properties such as the grain of the picture and the tremulous light are all aspects of Ensor’s painting.
Untitled (Tube, Edge) is the study of a dim corner in a room with dusty wallpaper, fungus and a water leak. After suffering humidity, the fungus spreads over the wall and causes decay. By its great attention for detail and materiality and the change of color, this work stands in vivid dialogue with James Ensor’s work and Sarah Westphal’s own works Draperies, Sculpture I and Draperies, Sculpture II.