Tableau vivant 2011

foto christophe Vander Eken

Tableau Vivant

In 2011 Sofie Muller was invited by the Emile Van Doren Museum in Genk to be its artist in residence. The museum is housed in what used to be a painter?s villa and now contains an exceptional collection of landscape paintings from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It tells the history of Genk as the haven for landscape painters that it once was. Sofie Muller was given the task of integrating the story of the museum into the adjoining site, where the Welfare campus and Toermalien Residential Care Centre were in the midst of being built. The resulting work is Tableau Vivant.

A living garden, with a strange blood-red river, black grass and a pollarded plane tree is planted amidst several buildings. What was once a piece of landscape demands its place back in the urbanised surroundings. Like a living painting, painted with plants, a tree and a pond, captured in a steel frame. The pollarded tree is embraced by the bronze figure of a girl. Her name is Fanny and she was inspired by the daughter of the landscape painter Emile Van Doren, her personal hero. To keep the memory of his work alive, she donated his villa, Le Coin Perdu, and all its contents, which together make up the Emile Van Doren Museum, to Genk city council. Fanny holds on tight to the memory of her father, to old Genck, where landscape painters once wandered en masse through the woods and over the heathlands.

Fanny puts her ear close to the patchy tree trunk to listen, telling it her secrets. As the years go by, the pollarded tree and the child will draw closer to one another in an increasingly intense embrace. Just like a painter who turns nature to his own ends on the canvas, Fanny will direct the growth of the tree. When the trunk gradually wraps itself around the child?s arms, it too will press more tightly the cleft bronze figure with which it shares its fate and with the strength of its growth will split the figure open even further. A struggle between nature and sculpture, in which they gradually merge together, intensified by the similar colours of the tree trunk and patinated bronze. Until they are inseparable and become one.

Sofie Muller?s Tableau Vivant deepens and broadens the significance of this public space. She evokes the memory of Genk?s landscape painters without lapsing into anecdote or simple aesthetics. A lost landscape from the past is updated and taken to another dimension, with the mysterious Fanny as its leading character, a sort of Alice in Wonderland.

Kristof Reulens 2012