Jan Fabre is showing - for the first time in Paris - a set of mosaics from two series: Hommage au Congo belge and Hommage à Jérôme Bosch au Congo, fruits of an artistic process that ran from 2010 to 2013.
In 2010, the fiftieth anniversary of Congolese independence, Fabre decided to turn his focus to his country’s colonial past. Using his materials of predilection, beetle wing sheathes - or elytra - Fabre has embarked on a new chapter of his journey as an artist.
The large beetle works display what Ekhard Schneider has described as ‘appalling plasticity’. The iridescent material offers a constantly changing vision that embraces every graduation, from shadow to light. With it, Fabre creates reliefs that echo the impasto techniques used by painters. Viewing from a greater distance reveals a specific iconography: late 19th century Belgian Congo and the visions of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516).
Jan Fabre offers a critical portrait using propaganda images of a Congo ‘made in Belgium’, a place annexed both physically and visually. He conjures for us the symbols and protagonists: the politicians (Leopold 2, Baudouin I), religious dignitaries and exploited victims. He also summons his predecessor Hieronymus Bosch — Fabre is fascinated by his superlative creativity and the power of his images. He draws inspiration from scenes depicted in the Garden of Earthly Delights, reinterpreting them as allegories of injustice, cruelty and indifference. With his magnificent mosaics, Jan Fabre creates ‘a sweeping epic of terror within beauty (…) saturated with stories from History,’ (Schneider).
Born in 1958 in Antwerp, Jan Fabre is internationally famed for his work in the theatre and as a visual artist and author. Since the late 1970s he has created thirty or so radical pieces combining dance with theatre, including Je suis sang (2000) and L’Orgie de la tolérance (2009), as well as ventures into the operatic form, such as the recent The Tragedy of a Friendship (2013).
He is currently working on a 24-hour performance project, Mount Olympus, which will be shown for the first time in June 2016.
Jan Fabre draws, creates sculptures, models and installations that revisit the themes that are his obsessions - metamorphosis, and the dialogue between art and science. Outstanding solo exhibitions include shows at Antwerp’s Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst in 2006 and the Louvre in 2008. His works have featured recently at the Otterlo Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands (Hortus/Corpus, 2011), Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Musée d’art moderne in St Etienne (Jan Fabre. Les années de l’heure bleue, 1986 – 1991, 2011), Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille (Hommage à Jérôme Bosch au Congo, 2014) and the Pinchuk Art Center in Kiev, Ukraine, (2014).
In September 2016 Jan Fabre will become the first modern artist to hold a show at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia.