Probably every one of us remembers runmaging through the wardrobes and cupboards and pulling out handkerchiefs, scarves, tights, pot lids and ladles, which then turn into long hair, a shield, or a beautiful dress.
What is so appealing and attractive in Gwen van den Eijnde’s work is the preserved world of childhood imagination. Looking at what he does, I cannot help thinking about the creativity of my children. Kids are able to use everyday objects to conjure up a princess’s dress, a knight’s steed, a king, a sorcerer, a bunch of little hares or two tiny kittens. In a child’s eyes, objects defined once and for all by rational adults acquire wholly new significance.What we see in reality ceases to be what we see.
In Gwen’s studio, you can find such usual-unusual objects that, reworked by the artist, cease to be what they originally were. Dry leaves, pasta shells, paper napkins and Christmas tree decorations, ribbons and bows, plastic tablecloths and interfacings become ostrich plumes, lace, seashells, fur or exquisite pieces of jewellery. Contrary to the rational approach and the perception of the world as we know it, Gwen sees something completely different in these objects. He loves to create costumes and to dress up as much as children do.
Gwen’s early costumes took a long time to make, turning from white models, three-dimensional sketches, into colourful, baroque, precious and elaborate costumes that looked like taken straight out of the masterpieces of Flemish painting. Now colour has been re-placed by black and white and sketch remains a sketch at every stage, both at the studio and during the performance. The result of this is that the viewers, whether big or small, can allow themselves to be dazzled in confrontation with Gwen’s creations, to be carried by imagination and swept up into his magic. They will see what they want to see – an artist’s conceptual play with form and tradition or a Snow Queen or chess figure.