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, 5 kilometers from 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, and
this resulted in a new set of objects, entitled:
Het Knekelkabinet (The Charnel Cabinet)
The vast majority is related to rituals and saints worship as they were mainly known in the Benelux untill the last century.
This Charnel Cabinet consists of a number of objects (30 in total), in which bones and skulls of animals have been incorporated.
Relics in the shape of bones have a very long and extremely fascinating history: they are the tangible remains of saints, which, according to believers, have a healing effect when they see and/or touch them.
At the same time, bones and skeletons have a chilling effect on us: after all, they are related to the unavoidable end of life. It is precisely this combination that has fascinated me since I was a child: the attraction versus repulsion and that is what I want to express in my work.
Because my work has a link with religion and history, the exhibitons are best shown in historical locations.
The average size is 30 x 50 x 7 cm
Assemblage Ellen Eva Brouwers 2020
The Gulden Knekelgalerij (The Golden Charnel Cabinet) is a special part of the collection. I placed each of these 12 objects that I created, in flamboyant copper frames, which are about a hundred years old.
I was inspired by the so-called catacomb saints:
In 1578, an underground burial ground was discovered by accident in Rome, where the skeletons of thousands of
people from the 1st to 3rd century AD were found.
By this age they were soon considered murdered Catholic martyrs. They were transported to German-speaking countries to replace the holy relics that had been looted and destroyed by the Protestants there.
Often by nuns, the skeletons were artfully decorated with gold and jewels from indulgences, and later dressed in Baroque style and then exhibited in display cases in churches. For more than three centuries, these 'Heilige Leiber' acted as miracle workers and patron saints of their parishes until doubts about its authenticity struck towards the end of the 19th century. From that time on they slowly became a source of shame for the Catholic Church and most of them were destroyed or hidden.
During a holiday in 2017 I was able to find and photograph most of the remaining specimens.
'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.