Johan Van Mullem. Origin
16 Oct — 30 Nov 2013 at Hus Gallery in London, United Kingdom
Hus Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition of new works from Johan Van Mullem’s latest series, Origin. The exhibition inaugurates Hus Gallery’s new location at 10 Hanover Street in London.
Johan Van Mullem’s painted works in ink on board are deeply personal creations that depict imagined portraits, figures, and characters from the artist’s subconscious. In his body of work, Van Mullem explores the evocative possibilities of ink, and its capacity for depth and meaning with an impressive sense of honesty and sincerity. Richly coloured pigments flow into and around each other, leaving ‘wisps of smoke’ in place of brush strokes, and bestowing the works with an anthropomorphic quality. The materials appear to be reacting and interacting with each other long after the artist’s brush has been removed. It is this combination of a unique approach to medium and an ‘unconscious’ method of painting that recasts Van Mullem’s ‘portraits’ as otherworldly apparitions. While these ‘figurative transmutations’ appear throughout Van Mullem’s oeuvre, it is only with Origin that we are finally presented with the most stripped-back version of his artistic vision.
The works on show are best described as a prequel to Van Mullem’s earlier series, Movements of the Soul. Where older works depicted figures in a more traditional sense - still dream-like and ephemeral yet retaining a certain tangibility - these new paintings explore the concept of the ‘beginning’ in the most literal sense. In these new works, there is a clear movement towards Van Mullem’s concept and inspiration behind the series of creation or ‘origin’, illustrated through his exploration of colour, of light, of form, and of movement. The faces depicted are moving back towards this ‘origin’, as atoms replace features, symbolizing the matter from which these figures once materialized. We also start to see the introduction of titles in these new works, a departure from the previous series where all pieces were Sans Titre, perhaps an indication of the more interactive or more informative role that the artist as creator plays in this series. All invented subjects from the artist’s psyche, with Origin it is almost as if we are granted unrestricted access into Van Mullem’s artistic vision – John Malkovich style.
While still retaining elements of Van Mullem’s traditional style – a bold handling of paint, fluid brush strokes, and haunting figures – these new pieces are bursting with a wider range of colour and are much more abstract than what we have seen before. What remains the same is Van Mullem’s ability to lead us into a world that is entirely his own creation.