This painting of Bruges, Belgium focuses not on its much loved and much painted medieval architecture but on its less known status as a functioning container port city. The painting is based on satellite photographs that follow the canal link between the ancient city and the modern port. All waterways in the paintings are inlaid with mirror. 

Bruges was a major port city before its original canal link to the sea silted up in the 16th century, consigning the city to economic oblivion and leaving behind the architectural heritage that has made it a popular tourist destination since the 19th century. Despite continued efforts by Bruges to reconnect itself to the sea, the new Port of Bruges (or Zeebrugge) and the canal connecting it to the city were not constructed until 1907. The new port is one of the largest in Europe but it linkage to the city is more symbolic than functional; the containers it handles would never fit into the old medieval warehouses.

The painting is currently installed in the city of Bruges’ cruise ship terminal. It was originally part of a five-room installation for the Groeninge Museum that contrasted the satellite-based painting with the traditional painted views of Bruges in the museum’s collection, with pierced mirrors giving access to the museum’s storage depot. To view the original installation, click here.

The Unloved, Ellen Harvey, 2014. One painting in four panels, oil on plywood, inlaid Plexiglas mirror,

overall: 9’ 3/16” x 67’ 11½” (2.75 x 21.2m). Photography: Dominique Provost.