Lily Dujuri: Mimesis
Presented by the Antwerp Public Art Collection
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA)
Leopold de Walplats 2
Antwerp Public Art Collection (Art in the City – Middelheim Museum) is proud to present Mimesis, a newly commissioned artwork by visual artist Lily Dujoury (1941, Belgium). This monumental sculpture marks Dujourie’s first public work, as well as the first time she created a work in bronze.
Mimesis was commissioned by the city of Antwerp on the occasion of the re-opening of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) in autumn 2022. Since the museum’s original opening in 1890, the plinth, which flanks the left side of the grand staircase leading up to the museum, remained empty. It has now become the site of a unique and highly site-adapted contemporary artwork.
Traditionally, pedestals serve to create distance between the statue and the audience, between the work of art and the “ordinary world”. Here, however, the sculpture – a network of roots and an abstract tree trunk – reaches the ground and finds firm ground in the shared public space of the city. Dujourie thus connects the museum to the world and shortens the distance between the street and the imposing museum building.
The clean line of the bronze elements refers to a drawing now placed on a Belgian bluestone background rather than on paper or canvas. The color and texture of the sculpture are allusions to other works of art in the immediate vicinity: glory by Léon Mignon on the plinth opposite (1896, KMSKA collection) and A deep fountain by Cristina Iglesias (2006, Antwerp Public Art Collection) in front of the museum. With the latter, Mimesis also shares a reference to nature and organic forms.
Nature, along with the human form, is perhaps the most famous motif in the history of art. And just as the many painted or sculpted bodies in the KMSKA collection convey an idealized image of the body, nature too has long been the object of artistic pursuit of perfection. This tradition of presenting an ideal world is called art historically with the ancient Greek word mimesis.
Dujourie’s work refers to this tradition and is also a continuation of it. It does not offer a romantic or naturalistic imitation of wood, but rather a representation of the thought of wood. The thought of tree roots, which, although invisible, were part of a millennia-old life system. A Global Underground Network for Collaboration and Healing. What normally remains invisible now becomes an object of reflection and observation.
The roots that “grow” above the plinth carry many symbolic associations that will grow with time and grow with the city and the museum. Lily Dujoury shows that a museum and its building can be a source of life. Roots also refer to the past as fertile soil: just like tree roots, (artistic) history is unevenly branched and therefore always multiple, never singular or linear. Roots are a strong symbol of origin and inspiration, of nourishment and growth. If museums are repositories of heritage, we must not forget that this heritage also has a complex and complicated history that stems from different roots. The motif of the tree also evokes an ecological reading of the work, in which nature is highlighted as a primary force over human culture.
Curator: Samuel Saelemakers, Curator Antwerp Public Art Collection
Project Development: Bart Spillemaeckers
Production: Art Casting
For the artist
The work of Lili Dujourie (1941, Roeselare, Belgium) mixes influences from Flemish Primitives such as Jan Van Eyck with her personal artistic approach dating back to the late 1960s. Major themes in her work are the relationship between nature and culture, the passage and weight of time, and her search for an emotional understanding of space.
Dujoury was the laureate of the Flemish Culture Award for Visual Arts in 2015. Her works are collected by leading Belgian and international museums as well as private collections.