From the Catalogue: Jan Fabre

Koller Auctions
Jun 17, 2016 10:08PM

Jan Fabre, the painter, director, choreographer and playwright from Antwerp, Belgium has already as a young man produced a great body of work. The individual works themselves are often “monumental”—in size, lavishness, and in the sheer “work” involved in making them. In his art we see a combination of unbelievable energy, great physical exertion, as well as persistence. Physical work is a central aspect of his way of working, as are transient situations and intervening states or moments. He works mostly at night and reaches the high point of his creativity between night and day, that intervening state—the so-called “twilight hour” of the dawn. It is for him a special phase “when the nocturnal animals go to sleep and the diurnal animals awaken, there is a moment of sublime stillness in nature, in which everything is torn open, breaks open and alters. I have sought this moment and captured it.” (cit.: “Jan Fabre im Gespräch mit Jan Hoet und Hugo de Greef,” Exh. Cat.: Jan Fabre. Der Leimrutenmann, Stuttgart 1995, p. 26.).

Such transient situations are also recognizable in his works. When he paints his “Blaue Bilder” (blue paintings)—his gigantic BIC works, where he scrawls over entire surfaces of paper with blue BIC ballpoint pens, he portrays himself in a trance-like state. The pen is like an extension of his hand; the hand of his arm, and the arm of his whole body. The endless blue lines, drawn tightly over one another, arise during this endless moment, where thought stops and the mechanics of the body allow him to “disappear” into his work. Already he has “BIC-ed” entire rooms, even castle Tivoli was immersed in blue with his scribbled strips of paper in 1990. BIC blue “is a very calm colour. Yet the way in which I apply it is very noisy. With time, however, and through repetition, it becomes calm again. Quiet—so that you can hear the picture. I try to give the stillness a form with all its sounds.” (cit.: Jan Fabre in: Exh. Cat.: Jan Fabre, Basel 1990).

That precisely this BIC blue painting, with its cheap ballpoint pens, has brought him fame, considering the exceptional position of the colour blue in art history—from Giotto‘s precious lapis lazuli blue, to Yves Klein‘s IKB blue—appears to amuse him. Doodling, which people do unconsciously on paper, is an expression of absence for him, when one constantly scribbles while on the telephone, while waiting, thinking, or out of nervousness. These traces of absence are what Fabre brings to a large surface: he allows himself to be guided by the lines, without painting exact forms or motifs, the lines lead the way. At the same time, these blue surfaces are witness to the presence of a person, of his physical body. In the endless repetition of the lines, there are traces of breathing, of the movement of the body and the physical presence is palpable.

This is presence and absence in one; an indissoluble tension and dialectic which drives and fascinates Fabre. He himself describes the works as a kind of self-hypnosis. “There are moments which I could summarize as follows: I do nothing consciously, my thoughts are not coherent, I am waiting for nothing, and everything happens of its own accord. My head spins, and my ear does its work. The limits are set aside. I fly around and through the drawing, below, over and in it.” (cit.: “Jan Fabre im Gespräch mit Jan Hoet und Hugo de Greef,” Ausst. Kat.: Jan Fabre. Der Leimrutenmann, Stuttgart 1995, p. 174.)

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