‘Aggiornamento’, Tom Volkaert curated by Eloi Boucher @Deborah Bowmann, Brussels

Between 1950 and 1952, Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa made several architectural changes to the Venice Biennale venue and (re)designed the rectangular courtyard within the patio of the Italian pavilion. For the 26th Biennale, in this space of exhibition, transition and relaxation, which is inspired by the ‘giardino pensile’ (hanging garden), he installed the ‘pensilina’ as a pergola. This marquise was created in order to hold some plants, a fountain but also sculptures. At that time, Alberto Viani refused to exhibit his artworks there, as he thought the structure was too autonomous, already an artwork on its own. “The problem was it was so beautiful, so strong that it was very difficult for artists to use it.”, Gabriel Orozco re-used this construction at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2003. He reproduced it at scale 1:1 as a monumental and ideal model and it was displayed in the interior and adjacent space, next to the original one, in mirror.

Tom Volkaert, as Carlo Scarpa, is known for his instinctive approach of materials. As he combines artisanal techniques with modern production methods, he aims to redefine the possible and random extensions and manipulations of the sculpture medium. For this occasion, about 66 years later, the “parodic” architectural configuration is re-used once more into a process of urban substitution and fits with Deborah Bowmann’s space as a new promenade, becoming a floating support surrounded by a misty blue sky which reminds the first layer of paint from the background of an Italian fresco as if the characters or ornaments had been erased. Five heavy and flowing sculptures – reminiscent of columns or pillars – support a concrete structure which is shaped as if three circles would have been subtracted from a rectangle. The change of scale transforms the environmental structure into a different way – a new landscape defined by different levels – which is no longer a canopy roof or a shelter for visitors but becomes a living space for the gallery. A publication, inspired by the form of a sketchbook, has been especially created as part of this exhibition. Gathering a selection among Tom Volkaert’s drawings since 2016, this archive of sensuous shapes and phantom-lines are the premises of Tom’s sculptural work and shows how these combinations on paper become three dimensional.

‘Aggiornamento’: Italian term expressing the idea of restoring and updating a term, an ideology or a place.

‘Le Minestrone’, Tom Volkaert, September 2018 – publication edited by Eloi Boucher, designed by Alexis Jacob, printed in 100 ex. by Autobahn and chromodrome, produced with the support of Base-Alpha Gallery, Antwerp.

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