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Contemporary artists reimagine Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” to the present day

Updated: Aug 8, 2023


SMACK, SPECULUM, installation view, Matadero, Madrid Exhibition
SMACK, SPECULUM, 2016-2019, installation view. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.


_ART & CULTURE

LOCATION: MADRID



Hieronymus Bosch’s delightfully weird and wacky triptych painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” has captivated and mystified viewers for centuries.



The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, triptych painting
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1490-1500, Museo Del Prado.


Housed in Madrid's Prado Museum, it's hard to believe this surreal and enigmatic painting - filled with strange hybrid creatures, oversized forbidden fruit, abnormal landforms, naked humans in sexual engagement, sci-fi architecture and eccentric punishments given out to the damned - was painted over 500 years ago.



The Garden of Earthly Delights, centre panel detail by Hieronymus Bosch
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1490-1500 (centre panel, detail).


By far his most well known work, The Garden of Earthly Delights illustrates Bosch’s individual artistic style of depicting the “strangeness of life” through vivid imagery rich with symbolic meaning. His work has inspired generations of artists, including Surrealists like Dalí and Miró.


With clear and strong erotic representations of lust along with other vices, the triptych is generally thought to be a warning of the dangers of giving in to temptation. As so little is known of Bosch’s life, this can only be assumed though as there isn't any concrete evidence on Bosch’s true intentions.


What was he trying to say in his weird and wondrous depictions of paradise and hell? Is it a warning about sin? A celebration of all the pleasurable activities we can do on Earth? Or an embrace of sexuality?



The Garden of Earthly Delights, close-up details by Hieronymus Bosch
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1490-1500 (detail).

It is easy to understand that this work continues to capture our imagination. Beautiful and deeply layered, Bosch’s delightful garden depicts scenes that are puzzling, innovative, humorous, curiosity-sparking, entertaining, enticing, shocking and open to interpretation even to this day.



New perspectives on Bosch’s surreal imagination


Today, a new exhibition pays tribute to the enduring influence of this iconic painting and to Bosch’s unfettered imagination.


The Garden of Earthly Delights exhibition at Matadero Madrid.
The Garden of Earthly Delights at Matadero Madrid. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.


The Garden of Earthly Delights, curated by Colección SOLO at Madrid’s MataderoCentre for Contemporary Creation, brings together 20 works by 15 international artists who reimagine and reinterpret Bosch’s renowned triptych from a contemporary viewpoint. The new perspectives are expressed in diverse artistic media from artificial intelligence, sound art, digital animation, painting, sculpture, video and installation.



Mario Klingemann, The Garden of Ephemeral Details artwork, Matadero, Madrid Exhibition
Mario Klingemann, The Garden of Ephemeral Details, 2020. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.


Works by SMACK, Mario Klingemann, Miao Xiaochun, Cassie McQuater, Filip Custic, Lusesita, La Fura dels Baus-Carlus Padrissa, Mu Pan, Dan Hernández, Cool 3D World, Sholim, Dustin Yellin, Enrique del Castillo, Dave Cooper and Davor Gromilovic offer a contemporary perspective on the fifteenth century masterpiece.



Sholim, Heaven x Hell Series artwork, Matadero, Madrid Exhibition
Sholim, Heaven x Hell Series, 2020. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.

Davor Gromilovic, Hell Panorama artwork, Matadero, Madrid Exhibition
Davor Gromilovic, Hell Panorama, 2019. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.


While many artists were drawn to the fantastical and psychosexual aspects of the work, others held up a looking glass to the society we live in today. Addressing issues such as invasive technology, consumerism, physical identity, sex, self-obsession, social media addiction, superegos, overexploitation and the state of the planet.


The different approaches and contemporary reworkings offer a treasury of visual stories that encourage us to reflect, to engage our creativity and to have a conversation on who we are and the society we have built.



SMACK, SPECULUM, Paradise, Matadero, Madrid Exhibition
SMACK, SPECULUM: Eden, 2019. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.

SMACK, SPECULUM, characters, Matadero, Madrid Exhibition
SMACK, SPECULUM: Characters, 2016-2019. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.


What's fascinating about this exhibition is that these contemporary interpretations actually take us back to the everlasting appeal of the original triptych. As a reflection of human nature, The Garden of Earthly Delights still makes us see surreal images of ourselves in it, reminding us of our own temptations, excesses, and sometimes the crazy world we live in.



Viewer looking at installation SMACK, SPECULUM
SMACK, SPECULUM, 2016-2019, installation view. Courtesy of Colección SOLO.

 


  • The Garden of Earthly Delights through the works of Colección Solo is at Matadero Madrid until 27 February 2022.


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