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Jan Fabre - 30 Years / 7 Rooms

04 November - 20 December 2015

Thirty years ago, Jan Fabre and Mark Deweer started their collaboration. At the time, in 1985, Fabre was a young, very much up and coming artist. Today he is one of the most important artists of our time.

The exhibition Jan Fabre - 30 Years / 7 Rooms, which festively celebrates thirty years of collaboration, is extensive and unique. The exhibition extends over all the exhibition spaces of the gallery and is divided into seven themed rooms, built especially for the occasion.

30 Years / 7 Rooms, in this way, presents a broad overview of the first historic objects, drawings, sculptures and installations, up to the latest works.

The exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity to become acquainted with the most important groups of works in the oeuvre of Jan Fabre in a unique dramaturgy, created especially by the artist.

Room I - Brainhearts

The exhibition Jan Fabre – 30 Years / 7 Rooms starts with Fabre’s most recent work, the double brain sculpture The brain as a heart, the heart as a brain along with two additional models that can be seen as studies for the large sculpture that is carved from white marble from Carrara.

A small snail crawls over a brain. Perched on this first brain is a second one, onto which a butterfly has landed. An arrow strikes the erected cerebrum in the cavity of the base of the brain stem and fully pierces the brain, thereby unmistakably portraying the erected brain as a heart. The symbolism of the arrow that pierces a heart is so common in cultural heritage that it is almost impossible to see the pierced body part other than as a heart. The symbolism of the pierced heart, which stands for love and feelings of love, is transposed to the intellectual, cerebral organ par excellence. Fully in accordance with Fabre's overarching artistic vision, the symbols of reason and feeling, which are usually seen as opposites, are here brought together in a single work.

Room II - The Hour Blue

This is one of the most famous groups of works in Jan Fabre’s oeuvre, dating roughly between 1977 and 1991. Under the theme of the Hour Blue, the hour of twilight and the transition between night and day, Fabre, using a blue Bic ballpoint pen, expresses his views on the art of drawing. Fabre emancipates the drawing as such; he as it were reinvents the medium. Large blue drawings on paper or canvas, wooden shrines coloured entirely blue and Bic-coloured photos are the plastic expressions of Fabre's vision on the transformations from man into animal and vice versa and from micro into macro energy fields and vice versa.

Room III - Shelter-studios

Nine basement models are presented in the immediate vicinity of the two large basement installations Shelter-studio for the Chilean artist-warriors and cleaning women I and II (1992&1993-2008), which are permanently housed in a basement room of Deweer Gallery. The models and the installations are based on Fabre’s recollections of personal contacts with seven Chilean illegal immigrants who were hidden and offered a bed in a basement in exchange for cleaning jobs. The shelter models represent mostly secret artist’s rooms, not accessible to anyone. They are half studio and half war room. The shelters also reveal Jan Fabre’s different appearances. As scientist, as filibuster, as resistence fighter or criminal, but also as dreamer and eternal warrior of beauty.

The shelter models and for that matter all Fabre’s thinking models occupy a very important because consistent place in Jan Fabre’s oeuvre.

Room IV- Offerings to the God of insomnia

Jan Fabre here presents an ensemble of new eye-sculptures. The theme, which first emerged in the work Offerings to the God of insomnia, shown in Fabre's exhibition at the Musée du Louvre in 2008, is here, for the first time, explored more extensively. Doll’s limbs cast in wax, originally conceived and produced as devotional ex votos, are fully or partially covered with real glass eyeballs. Like some sort of frogspawn, the never-closed eyes invade the various body parts. The latter, therefore, are doomed to keep watching. Argos the watcher has taken possession of the body. Rest is impossible. Yet the viewer cannot find rest either. To look at these works is to be looked at by thousands of pairs of eyes. Fabre developed the theme of the artwork that looks back on a monumental scale in the permanent installation The Gaze Within (the Hour Blue) (2011-2013), which he realised for the royal stairway of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

Room V - Umbraculum

For the occasion, the impressive installation Umbraculum a place in the shadow away from the world, to think and work – is again set up in the room where, in 2001, the year of its inception, it was first presented for the first time in all its grandeur.

As an early highpoint of his thinking about beauty and decay, about the fragility of man and the role of the artist as a timeless warrior, Umbraculum is one of the most crucial and most powerful installations Jan Fabre created in the 90s. The work is essential to a proper understanding of his personal visual language in general. The perfect integration of materials, objects and sculptures in a spatial environment that appeals to visitors both on a philosophical as well as on a physical level, together with the sound composition that recollects what once was, make this work a masterpiece of installation art. Umbraculum is imbued with the horror of the cemetery and the atmosphere of the chapel, places that often occur in Fabre's work, and generates a tension that hovers between life and death, in the greatest tradition of symbolist art. Many lines in his work lead to this work, and many start from there. The installation has travelled almost continuously in the past decade; in many of his exhibitions, especially outside of Europe, Fabre continues to present the installation as a pivotal work of reference.

Room VI – Is the brain the most sexy part of the body?

The theme of the brain as terra incognita, as an area to be explored, has in the past decade become one of the most important themes in the work of Jan Fabre. Fabre's fascination with the brain as the seat of the imagination is also well known. In this room are brought together a number of thinking models and research drawings on the human brain. The eponymous film which Fabre made together with the American biologist, entomologist and philosopher Edward O. Wilson (° 1929) in 2007 is projected in the Blackbox.

Room VII – A meeting / Vstrecha

In the late 90s, Jan Fabre has collaborated with the Ukrainian artist Ilya Kabakov (°1933). A unique and historic collaboration that was initiated by Mark Deweer in the second half of 1995. Drawings and sculptures by Fabre in collaboration with Kabakov and the movie which Fabre and Kabakov made together are presented. With special thanks to the lenders of the drawings.

Caption : Jan Fabre, The Fly (The Costume) & The Beetle (The Costume), 1997, The Fly: metal, leather, paper, wood, hog’s bladder, bones, fur and famed photograph, The Beetle: bones, wood, metal, paper, leather, fur, textile, cigarettes, lighter and framed photograph, ca 160 h x 160 x 160 cm & ca 140 h x 125 x 160 cm (Courtesy Deweer Gallery, Otegem, Belgium)

Reportage Focus & WTV