From Rommelaere’s clear fascination with film, the exhibition Dark Uncles unfolds like a movie-script and feels like a scrapbook. With the prologue to start, a hand-knotted tapestry shows a preview of the imagery visible in the space. The exhibition accumulates into an assemblage of fragmented and fused stories translating personal heritage, neo-folklore, memories, fiction and popular culture onto richly illustrated textile sculptures. The many details and layers show us the magic of textile-crafting techniques by intertwining and interweaving different scenes. The longer you look, the more you can discover, like a diorama: from the family house, a scene from the movie Hereditary to the garden filled with metal scraps, commemorating the artist’s deceased grandfather.
The puppets, referred to as 'dark uncles' (meaning doppelgängers) portray the most important people that shaped the artist’s life. They literally are and carry the work, carry memories and embody their significance on the artist. Each puppet, can be seen as a portrait that represents a particular person, symbolising who they are and what characterises them. The pillars refer to the foundations of home, paying tribute to the ancestors who build the framework for the house we have to continue building.
Vital, is the joint effort of how this project came into existence. As handcrafting textiles is a slow and labour intensive process, Rommelaere co-created the works with his 'madames', a group of fifteen elderly ladies who have been helping the artist for several years. The project has grown as a communal, social activity that creates shared purpose, community and exchange. The madames are a key part of the work. They make their own aesthetic decisions on yarns and colours as well as their interpretations of the drawings. As for this exhibition, Rommelaere put out a call to expand his group of madames, to which ninety people reacted to. They were send home-kits to help finalise the last bits of the project.
Dark Uncles feels like a love letter for life – for family, for the small and the shared things that make life worthwhile and special. From exploring his own family history, Rommelaere created a reflection that can be viewed as a time-capsule, a snapshot as an attempt to capture the inevitability of fleeting time. A testimony, for the people that shaped the artist’s life and work. Declaring life – by stitching together love and memory with needle and thread. Making us recognise ourselves in a story, how different it might be from our own.