Tree and Bags – Atelier Van Lieshout

Trees can be really beautiful and equally really creepy. If you’ve ever walked in a forest at dusk or just down a tree lines street, you’ll know the odd shadows that they create and the feelings of unknowing that they can present. Anything could be hiding in or behind the trees. Also historically trees have been used as a very effective make shift torture chamber, providing a easy whipping post, hanging frame or anything else you can imagine doing with a tree…

When being met with Lieshout’s trees and bags in a stairwell of the Boijman’s museum, it gave a eerie and unnerving feel. Mostly because everything looks like it has been covered in tar. The tree, as the central focal point looks like it has been covered by a thick liquid which has sucked the life out of it, the unnerving sense continues as you realise that there are things hanging from the tree, and things which look like they have fallen, or are waiting to be hung.

Those “things” are bags, some look to be kneeling at the foot of the tree, while others look like their contents have rotted away, while one full bag still hangs from the tree.

The work is not fully explained by the curator of the museum, and neither does the artist fully break down what is going on in this large scale installation.

The feature image in this post is the museum’s photo, the others are ones I have taken as the display has been moved in to this open space in a stair well, encouraging views to walk around the piece, and interact with it, although I have to say, the feeling that this gives off is not conducive to wanting to get up close and personal to is as it does feel that there are things living within the bags on the floor and they could reach out in a cry for help at any moment.

If ever you were looking for a piece of art which can evoke strong feelings, this is one of them. The curator notes on this piece:-

‘The work of Joep van Lieshout and his collect Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL) embraces a wide range of moods: aggressive, humours, sensual and hard. But rarely has he made a work so unnerving as this large sculpture in which sacks hang from a tree and others lie on the ground. Their contents are unclear but they harbour no good. Inadvertently, the work evokes Billie Holiday’s harrowing song ‘strange fruit’ about the lynching of black people in the southern states of America.”

How ever you view this installation, you can certainly say it is thought provoking, whether you love or hate it.

If you want to see more of Lieshout’s work you can see it here

If you want to listen to Strange Fruit, you can find it here… please be aware that the video chosen to go with this song has disturbing images, therefore if you think you would rather listen to the song without the images which are indicative of the background of the original poem, please do pop on to youtube and listen to this haunting and though provoking song.


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