Part of the
exhibition

In the Presence of Absence proposals for the museum collection

5 Sep 2020 until 31 Jan 2021

Artist Page — 2 Sep 2020

In the Presence of Absence, the bi-annual show of proposals for the museum collection, presents 23 artists (collectives). This artist page includes a text on the work and an artist contribution.

The mural 9 Sisters (2020) is based on the Ancient Greek story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses about the Pierides, nine sisters who are turned into magpies for gossiping about the gods. This work by Kasper Bosmans shows the birds using painted symbols to tell a variety of stories on a series of panels titled Legend: Vair Triptych (2020). These symbols evoke medieval, contemporary and other associations. Bosmans drew inspiration for this work not only from ancient tales, but also from the Internet, social media, and heraldry—the study of armory design. 

The paintings comprising Legend: Vair Triptych draw on the medieval tradition of narrative painting and tapestry—the word “triptych” in the title alludes to the three-panel altarpieces of the period. In heraldry the word “vair” refers to a regular, two-color (often blue and white) pattern on a family crest. Bosmans’ paintings intertwine myths, folktales, and recent events. In one he combines images inspired by the grey exterior of a datacenter in Amsterdam’s Science Park with a small painting of two moths that references the phenomenon of industrial melanism: the increased evolutionary occurrence of dark pigmentation among moths living in industrial environments. Another triptych concerns the modification by humans of naturally occurring colors, by using viruses to manipulate the color of tulip petals, for example, or rubbing plant and animal extracts into the skin of birds to alter the color of their feathers.

Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Kasper Bosmans’ “9 Sisters,” 2020.
Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Kasper Bosmans’ “9 Sisters,” 2020.

Oral histories, folk art, and local crafts all have important parts to play in the work of Bosman, who forges unexpected connections to expand interpretations of history. A critical interpretation of narrative imagery can generate insights into phenomena such as the bias inherent to the iconography and symbolism associated with particular stories—such as folktales that incorporate imagery that many may now consider xenophobic or misogynist. An example in Bosmans’ work is the story of Saint Wilgefortis, a woman whom God gives facial hair to deter her husband-to-be from an arranged marriage she has no wish to be part of. Her only wish is to avoid an unhappy marriage, but her father chooses to punish her by crucifixion, thereby uniting her for all eternity with God.  

Kasper Bosmans (1990) studied in Belgium at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and the Higher Institute for Fine Arts in Ghent. The artist’s work has been exhibited at Gladstone Gallery in New York, S.M.A.K. in Ghent, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.  

Artist Contribution

  • Kasper Bosmans, “Legend Vair (Hercule + St Ontcommer),” 2016. Courtesy the artist.
    Kasper Bosmans, “Legend Vair (Hercule + St Ontcommer),” 2016. Courtesy the artist.
  • Kasper Bosmans, “Legend Vair (Hercule + St Ontcommer),” 2016. Courtesy the artist.
    Kasper Bosmans, “Legend Vair (Hercule + St Ontcommer),” 2016. Courtesy the artist.
  • Kasper Bosmans, “Legend Vair (Hercule + St Ontcommer),” 2016. Courtesy the artist.
    Kasper Bosmans, “Legend Vair (Hercule + St Ontcommer),” 2016. Courtesy the artist.