Intangible cultural heritage is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me.
After a musical side step of more than 20 years, I have returned to my old path of visual art since 2013. I create objects and matching stories with which I try to evoke a mysterious mix of wonder and doubt, inherent in traditions and legends. I prefer to work with various used materials: from prehistoric wood from excavations, to what I find in thrift shops, on the street and in nature.
I was born in Holland in 1958 and moved to the beautiful Eifel in 2010, right on the Luxembourg border.
After I finished Het Maagdenkabinet (The Cabinet of Virgins 2015) consisting of 55 reliquaries with female saints, I delved deeper into the history of relics and related popular devotion.This
resulted in a new series of 30 objects.
The vast majority of this exhibition 'The Charnel Cabinet' is about almost-extinct catholic rituals until far into the 20th century.
Relics in the form of human remains, have a very long and extremely fascinating history: they are the tangible remains of saints, which, according to believers, have a healing effect when seen or touched. At the same time, bones (charnels), have a shivering effect on us: after all they are related to the inevitable end of life.
Attracting and repelling: that is exactly what I want to convey with this work.
Assemblage Ellen Eva Brouwers 2020
The objects, all framed in antique copper display cases, are inspired by the so-called "catacomb saints". In 1578, an underground cemetery was accidentally discovered in Rome, where the skeletons of thousands of people from the 1st to 3rd century AD were found and considered as murdered Catholic martyrs.
They were transported to German-speaking countries to replace the holy relics that had been looted and destroyed there by the Protestants. Often by nuns, the skeletons were artfully decorated with gold and jewelry of indulgences (gifts in the form of money to buy off their sins in order to get a place in heaven), and were displayed in churches.
For more than three centuries, these "Holy Bodies" acted as miracle workers and patron saints of their parishes, until doubts arose about its authenticity towards the end of the 19th century,
From that time on they gradually became a source of shame for the Catholic Church and unfortunately, most of them were destroyed or hidden.
'Het Laatste Voedermaal en de Vreemde Eend in de Bijt'
Ellen Eva Brouwers 2020
During the first lock down in 2020, various challenges were organized on the internet. One of these was the imitation of paintings by famous masters. Likewise, the Last Supper was used as a subject numerous times.
To stay in my own imagery, I formed the Last Supper from songbird skulls, using a duck skull for the apostle John to the right of Jesus.
The last part in the title:...een Vreemde Eend in de Bijt, is a Dutch saying which means in English: ‘a stranger in our mids' . Litterly translated it says: ‘a Strange Duck in our Group’', so I that is why I used the skull of a duck.
Many paintings shows this apostle depicted as a very androgynous appearance and often in a special emotional relationship to Jesus.
After the book of The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown), a comparison with Mary Magdalene is indispensable. I have therefore positioned her in arm with the host.
In my search for relics, both literally and figuratively, I often used a flashlight to see the details. Flashlights are available during this exhibition for you, to share this exciting experience!