Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck creates contemplative installations that blur the line between reality and make-believe. With children as his muse, Op de Beeck explores the imagination and innocence of his subjects. This thought-provoking theme is particularly perceptible in My bed a raft, the room the sea and then I laughed some gloom in me.
This life-sized, monochrome sculpture depicts a young girl deep in slumber. While her realistic bed and nightstand suggest she's sleeping soundly in her room, floating lily pads, towering reeds, and fluttering creatures surround her. This surreal scene offers viewers a glimpse into her subconscious as she drifts to sleep and dreams that her bed is a raft—a concept inspired by Op de Beeck's own childhood memories.
“As a child, I often imagined that my bed was a raft on the water, and the surrounding night-dark bedroom was the sea,” he tells My Modern Met. “When I went to sleep I retired to my soft raft, with an emergency ration of comic strips, some sweets, and a torch to read with.”
While this memory of a safe, soft raft may seem like a sweet dream, Op de Beeck also explores the darker side of dreamland in this piece. “I united the notions of ‘gloom’ with that of laughter in the rhyming title of this work, because sleeping and dreaming are not unilaterally positive,” he explains. “A dream can be funny and light-hearted, but it can also unlock the dark world of the nightmare.”
Though people of all ages encounter the dual nature of dreams, Op de Beeck believes that children face it on a deeper level—one that My bed a raft, the room the sea and then I laughed some gloom in me invites us all to experience. “There is nothing more affectionate and vulnerable than a sleeping child,” he says. “I wanted to bring that sensitivity, and the mysterious world of the dream, together in this image.”