The southern Dutch town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (or Den Bosch) there is currently a large exhibition of the work of the town’s most famous son, Hieronymus Bosch. Works have been gathered for around the world to be displayed in the Noordbrabantsmuseum to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. For Den Bosch the exhibition really is a big deal as there are normally none of the town’s hero’s works found there and for a few months at least they have been able to amass a considerable set .
Hieronymus Bosch is a much loved artist in art rooms around the world. His complex compositions are filled with endless detail, fantastic places, the most curious creatures, pleasure, suffering, heaven and perhaps most of all, references to hell. There simply is so much to see and explore.
Den Bosch is about tens west of where I teach, in the small Dutch town of Oss. Our local museum, the Jan Cunen, is a whole lot more museum than you might expect to find there. They are savvy enough to know when there is an opportunity to ride someone else’s wave of publicity and that is just what they have done by choosing to align their own programming to a degree with the major event in the neighbouring town. They have even been able to do this by inviting an artist with his own roots in Oss.
The artist concerned is Chris Berens, and has been presented and promoted as an artist drawing on Bosch’s work from 500 years ago. Berens’ work uses some of the visual qualities found in Bosch’s work, an eye for detail and at times huge complexity, but in a more contemporary manner. I have visited the exhibition twice this week with the groups of fifteen and sixteen year olds that I teach. The work is rich in fantasy elements but misses the background religious messages that lie under the surface in Bosch’s work. Technically the work is also rather different being built up of multitudes of manipulated computer prints and hand applied ink work that bring a considerable intensity to the finished work.
For more of Berens work visit his website:
The link below gives a little insight into his working practice:
My pupils have enjoyed their visits this week and once again have been quite surprised at the cultural offerings that the local museum can offer. The complexity and rich fantasy element in Berens’ work is particularly engaging in the eyes of the pupils, at least when they pause long enough in front on a single work to give themselves time to unpack some of the riches to be found there. It is no secret that patience not the strongest point of an average fifteen year old!
Bosch’s work is accessible to children and young people on several levels and will continue no doubt to be drawn on by art teachers around the world. In this context, and as an interesting contemporary parallel, Chris Berens’ work is also worth a visit. The technical approach in his use of collage and mixed media is an aspect I will be drawing on in the coming weeks with my classes.