Belgian artist Peter Buggenhout makes large-scale abstract sculptural assemblages that are evocative of debris or shrapnel from a brutal world. He has exhibited internationally, including at the Venice and Lyon Biennales, and lives and works in Ghent.Read More
Peter Buggenhout was born in Dendermonde in 1963. He studied installation art at Sint-Lucas in Ghent, graduating in 1986.
Buggenhout is the long-term spouse of sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere.
Made from materials as diverse as dust, blood, horsehair, intestines, and transparent PET—typically used to make plastic water bottles—Peter Buggenhout's sculptures seem like large fragments or rubble produced by some violent, destructive force.
Each defiant of symbolic reading, Buggenhout's artworks provoke the viewer to question traditional ways of seeing and attaching meaning.
Some of Peter Buggenhout's earlier forms of abstract amorphous sculpture, the 1999 'Eskimo Blues' works appear like the unspecified sun-bleached remains of a mysterious ancient creature preserved for study in a museum.
Made from cow stomachs wrapped over cores of debris, plastic, wood, or polystyrene, the works are unsettlingly real, while having no true recognisable form.
The son-in-law of a butcher, Buggenhout developed an interest in using biological materials and in contemplating how things can grow from the inside outwards.
Two of Peter Buggenhout's longest-running series began in the early 2000s. Both use biological materials, which, while initially repulsive, attract the viewer by their indefinability.
The 'Gorgo' sculptures—drawing their name from the myth of Medusa—involve soaking an amalgam of partially recognisable materials like cardboard and horsehair in animal blood.
Buggenhout's 'Mont Ventoux' (2007–2021) sculptures make use of innards—mainly cow's stomachs and intestines—in combination with materials including cardboard, metal, wood, plaster, papier mâché, polyester, polyurethane, and epoxy.
In both series, the title reflects the artist's way of seeing the world, rather than alluding to form. 'Mont Ventoux' refers to the story of the Renaissance scholar Petrarch, who climbed a mountain and tried to catalogue and master the world before him but overlooked the mountain on which he stood.
Peter Buggenhout is best known for his long-running sculpture series, 'The Blind Leading the Blind' (2004–ongoing). The series incorporates dust gathered from vacuum cleaners and caked over materials like plastic, polyurethane, aluminium, iron, wood, and Plexiglas, all surrounding a core of various kinds of debris—from pipes to carpeting and industrials scraps.
The title of each work references Pieter Brueghel the Elder's painting of the parable at the Capodimonte in Naples, and the notion it portrays of the fallacy of human knowledge. Transforming the materials and objects beyond their original form and function—an echo of Constructivist ideas from the 1910s—the works defy human interpretation.
Buggenhout views dust as a substance that has the capacity to change the form and meaning of the things it falls upon. Recognisable objects and materials in these dust-based works are transformed into objects that represent something ambiguously resting between construction and entropy.
In his 2010 monograph, It's a strange, strange world Sally, Buggenhout wrote, 'Once you have finished walking around one of my sculptures, you cannot but conclude that it resembles nothing other than itself'.
In the 'Mute Witness' series (2017–ongoing), Peter Buggenhout incorporates textiles into works comprising stiffened, dirty cloth bags shaped with polyurethane, aluminium, wax, dirt, and other materials. Appearing like petrified pillows stood upright, their perceived sealed-off inner space invokes the unseen and inaccessible.
The use of modern textiles is also prevalent in the large-scale sculpture series 'On Hold' (2015–ongoing), for which each work starts with some form of inflatable object squeezed between different shapes.
Peter Buggenhout has created several public installations, including a permanent work—The Blind Leading the Blind—at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart. In 2019, Buggenhout presented the outdoor sculpture On Hold #9 for Frieze Sculpture in London's Regent's Park.
Peter Buggenhout has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions internationally.
Solo exhibitions include A Dog with Eyes for the Blind, Galería Hilario Galguera, Madrid (2022); The Blind Leading the Blind, Palais De Tokyo, Paris (2012); caterpillar logic, Kunstraum Dornbirn, Austria (2010); and The Unlogical Proposition, Vereniging voor het Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst/Contemporary Art Society, Ghent (1995).
Group exhibitions include Risquons-Tout, WIELS, Brussels (2020); Le Silence Une fiction, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (2012); The Hands of Art, S.M.A.K., Ghent (2008); and La Belgique Visionnaire (Visionary Belgium), Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2005).
Peter Buggenhout's Instagram can be found here.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2023