In dialogue for the first time, Nel-14512 (Belgium, 1986) and Arny Schmit (Luxembourg, 1959) invite us to contemplate the fragility of our relationship with the environment. Represented in all its beauty and wilderness, the idea of Mother Nature as the genesis of Life of Earth is translated in all of the sculptures and assemblages bearing dadaist titles made by Nel-14512, a visual artist from Liège. If her work is centered around three self-portraits conceived as invitations to consider our own footprint on all elements surrounding us, Arny Schmit elects the point-of-view approach to cinematographically bring us into a universe where nature has taken over, and traces of humanity are scarcely noticeable. Together, the artists call our attention to the thin lines separating chaos from balance, reminding us of the mythical origin tale of the tower of Babel, a parable for Man’s aspirations to play God.

According to this story from the Book of Genesis, a united human race speaking a single language and migrating eastward, came to the land of Shinar, where the people agreed to build a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Yahweh, observing their city and tower, confounded their speech so that they could no longer understand each other, and scattered them around the world. As punishment for thinking himself superior to all else, Man was given different languages and was displaced, in turn starting the process of even greater migrations. Of course, this is a myth. But some scholars think the tale refers to old Babylon, and the name Babel to the meaning of “Gate of God”.

In parallel of this ancient narrative, it is interesting to reflect on the evermore global society we are living in. We seem to be once again evolving beyond the hurdles of languages, increasingly thinking ourselves united, despite some polarizations surviving, and yet our impact on the environment has never been greater. We do know that acting together to reduce global warming is conditional for a world in peace. Science has an enormous part to play in doing so. But increasingly, philosophical and artistic approaches are helping to challenge the inconvenient truth that we are doing too little too late.

In their work, Nel-14512 and Arny Schmit investigate notions like fragility, interconnectedness, and boundaries. In this exhibition, Schmit’s seelenlandschaften act as a green theatre of luxurious poetic waves constituted of branches, leaves, and roots of wood and moss, for Nel’s natures mortes, where axes become new trees, and eggs are about to break open with new hope. Jesus kissing another Jesus is a central work in the show, a reminder of the universality of love. That love is further represented through the dominant pink color in the ensemble, connecting the works of both artists, just as much as the invasion of the written word does in certain paintings by Schmit, and in all the titles of Nel’s works which conceptually give birth to her sculptures, firmly anchoring them in a surrealist tradition celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

In L’Air Libre, Serre-Tête and Rompre la Glace, Nel uses a mold of her own head to capture our gaze, each colourful self-portrait a testimony to a specific issue of the climate debate, as is her famous Global Warning – a melting ice cream in the form of a brain. Other sculptures echo facets of our human nature like #E-Migrant, Faune Sauvage, or Don’t Look Up, which respectively comment on the migration hypocrisy, the mask of society, and the beauty of blindness.

Schmit’s bountiful landscapes are dominated by a sombre green hue representative of the idea of decay, of rot. Here, the cycle of nature solidly relies on the decay of organic matter to generate new life. One could read in this underlying visual statement the necessity of letting the old disappear to give place to the new. (W)underland and Eden are therefore more question marks than affirmative statements, and together open up our interpretations of the many nature-based patterns permeating our industrial world, as in tiles and wallpapers, or even neon tubes which are invading the pictorial space. Schmit presents several paintings which incorporate artificial light, which he uses both as reminder of our modern intrusion in the world of Mother Nature, and as a symbol of the sacred nature of life. There are numerous losses of material, scratches and stains, present throughout the panoramas of the artist, which may be understood as an expressionist process of questioning. What parts of this story are still missing? Where do we fit in the bigger picture?

Back to the Tower of Babel: - The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

In times of war, we are forced to contemplate the ephemeral nature of human existence. Recent focus on Oppenheimer, Einstein, and the Bomb are as many testaments to the resurgence of the doom scenario. With the war in Ukraine, turmoil in the Middle East, and the looming threats of global conflict, other priorities resurface and climate action is relegated to second or third concern in political agendas. If ever there was a tower to be built to commune with a higher power, its engineers would do well to lay every brick in full consciousness of how everything on this planet is osmotically interconnected. There is humility in contemplating one’s own position within the great ensemble. That humility could become the grammar of our new common language, or at least this is what this particular artistic conversation seems to articulate.

Klaus Pas

June 2024


FROM 14:00 TILL 21:00


1 JUNE 2024 - 24 AUGUST 2024

Opening Hours
Wed - Fri 11:00 - 17:00
Sat 11:00 - 15:00

otherwise by appointment