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Homo Fabre - in the realm of the Blue Hour

Category: Exhibition 16. May 2011

Between mythical creatures and human forms, between dream and nightmare, we find ourselves in a world where life crawls and insects swarm: Welcome to the land of the Blue Hour. A selection of works by Jan Fabre in the Picture Gallery of Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna can be seen from 4 May till 28 August 2011. This podcast was realised with the kind support of UNIQUA ArtCercles.

Interview with Jasper Sharp, the curator of "The Hour Blue" exhibition of Jan Fabre at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
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Jan Fabre is an artist we can safely describe as a multidisciplinary all-rounder. He is a painter, graphic artist, stage director, choreographer, lighting designer, author and editor – drawing from all fields of creativity: Arts, sciences, philosophy, literature, religion…nothing escapes him.

As first living artist and as a conclusion of his trilogy (2006 in Antwerp, 2008 in the Louvre), the exhibition in the picture gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna will display 26 works of his series “The Blue Hour”. They are distributed in the premises of the picture gallery until August 28, showing the collection of paintings in a new perspective.

Fabre reflects on the old master’s works as well as on the history of painting, and on the meaning of the museum as an institution.

The exhibition deals with the evolution of drawing as a means of expression and the question what a drawing is, what its surface actually is. The works of the series have been produced with blue BIC-ballpoint pens, they revolve around the topics of metamorphosis and rebirth, and they are drawn, or hatched on paper, canvas, a large silk drapery or three-dimensional objects.

In the halls and chambers of the picture gallery, Fabre enters into a dialogue with the collections’ masterpieces; he reacts to Rubens, the Italian masters, German painting, and the Dutch, especially to Brueghel. According to him, the great paintings evolved from first sketches, his pictures are therefore something like the “reverse side of the old masters”.

His transcending subject is the blue hour. A tribute to his great-grandfather, the entomologist and writer Jean-Henri Fabre, who coined the term in his writings, describing the transitory phase of dawn, where the nocturnal animals calm down and the birds are not yet singing – a mystical moment of silence and transformation, between dream and consciousness: this is the realm where his oeuvre comes from, says Fabre.

He still sees in himself the sleepless child, imagining strange creatures in the cracks of the room’s ceiling. As he says, the gesture of drawing and the rhythm of its movement put him into a state of trance-like concentration, in which he conjures up his visual worlds and gives them their form.

On display between, above, under, and even instead of the collections masterpieces, the works of Fabre -loans from public and private collections from all over the world- enter into a fascinating relationship between the contemporary and the historical, the transient and the permanent. In addition to this, there are sculptures of the artist on display in the entrance hall and on the roof (visible from the park), as a further contrast between modernity and history.

In all his artistic endeavours, in fine arts as well as in performing arts, Fabre creates intriguing visual associations, the combination of opposites generating surprising insights – we could describe it as the art of the oxymoron.

“Nowhere is the original vulnerability, sensibility, and fear of a personality that is constantly hiding, deeply emotional, enthusiastic, impulsive, unsettled, and passionate as visible as in the gigantic graphical oeuvre of Jan Fabre, where the empathetic ability of deep, revering, spontaneous, unlimited ability of admiring the enigmatic and where the complete, uncompromising, excessive commitment to the secret of the haunting unknowability of the world is so immediate, so touching and so unconcealed. This exaggeratedness defines the entire poetic domain, from the artistic methodology to the narration, from the intensity of the psychological-emotional involvement to the auratic connotations - intensifying our thirst for adventure and our ability to project, with their poetic allusions to enigmatic events and contexts, to mysterious correlations of human and animal creatures, organic and inorganic formations, and rational and irrational occurrences”, Lóránd Hegyi. (ca)

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