One of Gwen van den Eijnde’s most notorious influences resides in his fascination with a mysterious and extravagant garden situated in Bomarzo, Italy: The Garden of Bomarzo, also known as the Park of the Monsters. Erected in the 1550’s by the patron of the arts Vicino Orsini, this surreal Renaissance garden houses over thirty big-scale grotesque sculptures, representing mythological Greek figures (Pegasus, Aphrodite, Cerberus, and Hercules) or imaginary animals (sphinx, sirens, dragon, orc, whale, bear). The park was abandoned in the following centuries, and only renovated and rediscovered in the 1950’s, becoming then a source of influence for numerous artists — Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau or Niki de Saint-Phalle, whose sculpture garden “Garden of Tarots” pays a evident homage to the Park of the Monsters.
There is something obviously monstrous, yet openly humorous in Gwen van den Eijnde’s baroque costumes. He seems to treat fashion with the distance of a storyteller and the meticulousness of a goldsmith. His costumes are finely cut for fairy-tale creatures and phantasmagoric characters, wearing capes with expanded Vivienne Westwood-inspired butt, delirious bobble horns, paper-made ruffs made or Cossack boots.
The attaching monsters created by Gwen van den Eijnde, that he actually stages himself when presenting his collections, often in an almost Klaus Nomi’esque baroque performative setting, could have indeed found their homes in the Italian Garden of Bomarzo. Enchanting by their excessive proportions, yet impressive by the details of their textures and ornaments, Gwen van den Eijnde’s pieces of clothing astutely combine the gravity of mannerism and the playfulness of a fairy-tale. This subtle ambivalence provides the viewer with a precious feeling of desecration and a discrete veil of childish fantasy.