The Halewyn Service .
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The Halewyn Service .
In a series of 130 drawings on ceramic plates, Frans Gentils depicts the mythical character of “Lord Halewyn”, as told in one of the oldest and most remarkable Dutch folktales, “Het Lied van Heer Halewyn” (The song of Lord Halewyn).This epic poem describes a demoniac figure, a serial killer of spell-bound virgins, who gets himself seduced and beheaded by a brave princess.
The dinner set drawings continue the tell-tale’s story where the song stops in an astonishing manner, namely when, in the last verse, the head of Lord Halewyn is placed on the table at the banquet to the honour of the victorious princess. Thus the plates, substratum of the drawings, can be considered inherently part of the song’s subject.
This medieval motif, said to be of Celtic origin, is still of striking significance in the light of contemporary cases of abuse and murder, like the Dutroux case in Belgium and the occurrence of sado-masochistic cannibalism in Germany, which were widely exposed the media. Beheaded by Lady Justitia, have these modern demons figuratively been eaten and digested ?
According to Celtic beliefs, the body of a victim or an enemy could be immolated to get hold of its virile and intellectual forces. To renew this animistic process in a metaphoric way, Frans Gentils has drawn 130 portraits, representing so many aspects of Lord Halewyn’s character, under the features of (a.o.) a bluebeard, a pervert, a demon or an animistic being.
As the support for this graphic work-a dinner set- explicitly refers to the banquet, the artist encourages the convives to absorb -in the wake of the ancient Celts- some of Lord Halewyn’s mythical powers. Every plate evokes a different aspect, thus the convive can select the forces he or she would like to possess, preferable to complete his personal weaknesses. Happily enough, as the motivation for the slaughter is not specified in the poem, cotemporary bearers of Lord Halewyn’s dark force are free to give it their most personal, and hopefully more peaceful, expression.
The drawings are depicting the Halewyn phenomenon in two distinct ways: on the one hand, there is the direct expression of the evil mind, through facial expressions, morphology of faces and skulls, sometimes reminiscent to animal instincts and reptilian pulses. On the other hand, the work is driven by an animistic approach, comparable to the Celtic tradition. Halewyn’s soul is linked to a landscape of animal forms, trees , branches, industrial sites and debris.
Alongside poets represent their poems on the same theme.