Jan Fabre The Castles in the Hour Blue curated by Melania Rossi
22nd September – 22nd December 2018
BUILDING Via Monte di Pietà 23, 20121 Milan Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 7 PM
Sant’Eustorgio Cathedral and Portinari Chapel P.zza Sant’Eustorgio 1, 20122 Milan Monday – Sunday, 10 AM – 5.30 PM Entrance to Cappella Portinari: €6
“The tweeting of birds announces the day. The night has passed. But in the Blue Hour I find a suitable place to isolate myself from the world and give power to my inner time”. Jan Fabre, Antwerp, May 16th, 1987
BUILDING is pleased to present “The Castles in the Hour Blue”, the first solo exhibition ever held in Milan of the visual artist and theatrical author Jan Fabre.
The exhibition, curated by Melania Rossi, will open to the public on September 22nd, with site-specific installations at BUILDING; it will also feature ad hoc installations in two institutional places of the city of Milan, such as the Sant’Eustorgio Cathedral and the Portinari Chapel.
On view will be a “world premiere” selection of artworks – for the main part, never seen before since part of the artist’s collection, now available to the public for the very first time – made by Jan Fabre since the late Eighties, focused on two themes which are particularly important to the master: castles and the Hour Blue.
Drawings, collages, videos, photographic works and sculptures bring together a journey in the most “romantic” and poetic – but always radical and symbolic – imagery of one of the most important artists on the contemporary scene.
The aesthetic and ethical fusion of the two themes in the conception of Jan Fabre, declared in the title of the show, is evident in the exhibited artworks, starting from “Tivoli” (1990), one of the works that consecrated the artistic career of Jan Fabre at an international level.
In this case, Fabre had completely covered the Tivoli castle (Mechelen) in sheets all drawn in blue bic, which had been left transforming under the sun light and bad weather. A real architectural performance that the artist had been recording during day and night, releasing a 35 mm short movie that will be on view at the gallery. “Sometimes the castle has a purple reflection, sometimes more towards the red, then a silvery glow, to then turn into intense blue bic again. (The sculpture-drawing trembles and lives with its enigmas).”, Fabre writes in his nocturnal diary during the realization of the work.
The tone of the bic ink reminds the artist of the atmosphere of that special moment between night and day, between sleep and awakening, between life and death. The Hour Blue, a sublime moment of complete silence and perfect symmetry in nature, when nocturnal animals are about to fall asleep and the diurnal ones are waking up, in which the processes of metamorphosis take place.
Theorized by Jean-Henri Fabre, considered the father of entomology, the Hour Blue has inspired Jan Fabre a production of bic-pen drawings of different sizes, but it is mostly in the large works that the eye is completely immersed in the dense blue lines, where it is difficult – if not impossible – to embrace the work in its entirety.
The drawing, in this production by Fabre, acquires a dignity which is not only autonomous but also threedimensional, becoming sculpture, architecture; it is not a mere preparation for a painting or a draft sketch for a sculpture, it is an immersive artwork that reveals the most intimate, true and instinctive feeling of the artist’s thought. On this idea Jan Fabre has been working since his beginnings, since the birth of his “bic art”. “I want my viewers to be able to abandon themselves to the physical experience of drowning in the apparently calm sea of my blue bic drawings”, the artist writes in 1988.
Even in the large formats on display, the attention is naturally captured by small portions of drawing in order to follow the lines, now subtler, now more marked, or it finds an imaginary point of escape in the leaf-insects applied on the paper, which form profiles of castle towers.
As in front of the large silk installation displayed inside the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, in presence of the sculptures in the Portinari Chapel or in front of the site-specific work that the artist will make at BUILDING, we are inside the drawing, which becomes space, house, castle. If the castle is the place of the romantic fairytale par excellence, Jan Fabre’s castles have something different, they are infused with the personal romanticism of the artist, who defines himself “a knight of despair and a warrior of beauty”. The first aim, the only creed of the artist, is to defend the beauty and fragility of art. Jan Fabre is a contemporary knight who makes castles in the air, castles of cards, rests in his castle and dreams.
Tivoli, Wolfskerke, Monopoli, are the castles on which the artist has taken action with his blue sign and which are represented in the artworks on display, covered in the typical light of that special moment in which we can dream of owning a castle, still being in a chivalrous era made of values for which to fight strenuously.
The “way of the sword” is “the way of the art”, the true avant-garde of the artist who, while dreaming, draws, writes and invents a personal universe starting from the great tradition that precedes him. Fabre fights to the point of exhaustion in defense of the most authentic, tragic, mad and heroic spirit of the artist and of the man.
Biographical notes With a career spanning some forty years, Jan Fabre (b. 1958, Antwerp) is regarded as one of the most innovative figures on the international art scene. As a visual artist and theatrical author, he creates an intensely personal atmosphere with its own rules, laws, characters, symbols and motifs. Curious by nature, and influenced by the entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre’s (1823 – 1915) manuscripts, Jan Fabre became fascinated at a young age by the world of insects and other small creatures. In the late 1970s, during his studies at the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, he began exploring ways of incorporating the human body into his research.
Jan Fabre’s visual language exists within an idiosyncratic world, one that is populated by bodies that define the natural existence through a permanent balancing act on the thin line between life and death. Metamorphosis and the constant interaction between animal-human and human-animal are key concepts in Fabre’s mental legacy. His spiritual and physical universe unfolds within his literary texts and his nocturnal notes, or so-called ‘Night Diaries’. As a consilience artist, he merges performance art and theatre; Jan Fabre has changed the theatrical idiom by bringing to the stage real time and real action. After his historic eight-hour production ‘This is theatre like it was to be expected and foreseen’ (1982) and the four-hour ‘The Power of Theatrical Madness’ (1984), he kept exploring uncharted territories with ‘Mount Olympus. To Glorify the Cult of Tragedy’ (2015), a 24-hour performance.
With this monumental and epic performance, he rewrote the history of theatre in several international cities. Jan Fabre enjoys worldwide recognition thanks to such works as ‘The Man who Measures the Clouds’ (1998), which can be seen in various venues (SMAK, Ghent; deSingel, Antwerp; Brussels Airport, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa), the ‘Tivoli’ castle in Mechelen (1990) and permanent public works in prominent locations, including ‘Heaven of Delight’ (2002) at the Royal Palace in Brussels, ‘The Gaze Within (The Hour Blue)’ (2011 – 2013) in the royal staircase at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the installation of ‘The Man who Bears the Cross’ (2015) in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp and, in the same city, the three altarpieces after Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dyck in St. Augustine’s Church/AMUZ.
Like ‘Heaven of Delight’, even these altarpieces are made with the wing cases of jewel beetles. Jan Fabre paints with light by replacing traditional oil paint with one of the most durable of all natural materials. The two famous series of mosaic panels in which he addresses the controversial history of Belgium, ‘Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo’ (2011 – 2013) and ‘Tribute to Belgian Congo’ (2010 – 2013), were exhibited for the first time in their entirety at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev (2013).
They were subsequently exhibited at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille (2013) and in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in honour of the 500th anniversary of Hieronymus Bosch (2016). Key solo exhibitions by this versatile Belgian artist include ‘Homo Faber’ (KMSKA, 2006), ‘Hortus/Corpus’ (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, 2011) and ‘Stigmata. Actions & Performances, 1976-2013’ (MAXXI, Rome, 2013; M HKA, Antwerp, 2015; MAC, Lyon, 2016; Leopold Museum, Wien, 2017; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville, 2018). He has been the first living artist to present a large-scale exhibition at the Louvre, ‘The Angel of Metamorphosis’ (2008). With his well-known ensemble ‘The Hour Blue’ (1977 – 1992), his work has travelled to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Wien (2011), the Musée d’Art Moderne in Saint-Etienne (2012) and the Busan Museum of Art (2013), amongst other museums.
Jan Fabre was also invited by Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky to create a large-scale exhibition at The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. For this project, entitled ‘Jan Fabre. Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty’ (2016 – 2017), the artist entered into a dialogue with the masters of Flemish art: Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dyck – his inspirations.
In 2016, Jan Fabre was invited to present ‘Spiritual Guards’ in three historical sites in Florence: Forte del Belvedere, Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria. His latest solo exhibition in Italy, ‘Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977 – 2017’, was a collateral event of the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale (2017).
At present time, at the Valley of Temples in Agrigento and at the Monreale Cathedral, it currently is on view the big show ‘Jan Fabre. Ecstasy & Oracles’, main collateral event of Manifest 12. In 2018, Fabre’s work can be seen at the Fondation Maeght, where he presents an overview of his research to date on the brain, with the revealing title: ‘Ma nation, l’imagination’.
His on-going research into the brain, which he calls “the most sexy part of the body”, began several years ago with ‘Anthropology of a Planet’ (Palazzo Benzon, Venice, 2007), ‘From the Cellar to the Attic, from the Feet to the Brain’ (Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2008; Arsenale Novissimo, Venice, 2009), and ‘PIETAS’ (Nuova Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Misericordia, Venice, 2011; Parkloods Park Spoor Noord, Antwerp, 2012). Exhibitions, summer 2018 ‘Jan Fabre. Stigmata. Actions & Performances (1976-2017)’, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, CAAC, Siviglia, until 02.09.2018 ‘My Queens’, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, until 19.08.2018 ‘Folklore Sexuel Belge (2017-2018), Mer du Nord Sexuelle Belge (2018) Edité et offert par Jan Fabre, le bon artiste Belge’, Galerie Daniel Templon (Grenier Saint-Lazare), Paris, until 21.07.2018 ‘Ma nation, l’imagination’, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, until 11.11.2018 ‘Jan Fabre. Ecstasy & Oracles’, Monreale – Agrigento, Sicily, until 4.11.2018. The Hour Blue: essential bibliography Jan Fabre – Knight of Despair | Warrior of Beauty, The State Hermitage Museum, Skira, Paris 2016 Germano Celant & Ian Fabre, Stigmata. Actions & Performances 1976 – 2013, Skira, Milan 2014 Anna Kreutztrager, Le regard en dedans (L’Heure Bleue), Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2013 Hegyi Lorand (curated by) The Years of the Hour Blue, Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2012 Sabine Haag (curated by) Jan Fabre. Die Jahre der blauen Stunde, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Brandstätter, Wien 2011 Marie-Laure Bernadac, Paul Huvenne, Christos Joachimides, Eckhard Schneider, Jan Fabre au Louvre. L’ange de la métamorphose, Louvre, Gallimard, Paris 2008 Giacinto Di Pietrantonio (curated by) Jan Fabre / Homo Faber: Drawings, Performances, Photoworks, Films, Sculptures & Installations, Mercatorfonds, Antwerp 2006