In a unique exhibition, Deweer Gallery focuses on the viewing boxes, thinking models and drawings of Jan Fabre, highlighting in this way a very important and consistent part of Fabre's extensive repertoire. Deweer Gallery has been representing Jan Fabre for 32 years already and has preserved his viewing boxes, thinking models and drawings since the beginning of his career. From his first thinking model 'La maison de J.F.' (1977), a rare, utopian design of an aluminum house without a roof, to his later brain drawings (2008) and brain models (2008).
The viewing boxes and thinking models are unjustly overlooked within the multifaceted oeuvre of Jan Fabre. They are small three-dimensional objects that provide an insight into the inexhaustible imagination of the artist and visually depict autonomous worlds that subvert the relation (of scale) to reality. They contain many of the themes in Fabre's universe, such as his penchant for blue Bic pen-colored drawings and the Bic-treated objects that refer to the transition between day and night. They show different faces of the artist that range from scientist to adventurer, resistance fighter and criminal to dreamer and eternal seeker of beauty.
Some models visualize ideas that are later echoed in his theater works. Others refer to actions, performances or live installations, or serve an as-yet undefined design function. Still others are reconstructions that link past to present. A good example in this respect is 'Sea-Salt of the Fields' (1980) which was created after a performance and installation presented in the United States. Fabre reconstructed it like a kind of fossil/relic with a number of authentic salt cans from America; in this way, he was able to further elaborate the work/content of the earlier performance. This particular thinking model, however, is currently on loan at the Leopold museum in Vienna and is therefore not included in the exhibition.
Another historically important work is Fabre's 'Shoe boxes' (1977). This work consists of three shoe boxes which Fabre colored with blue ballpoint pen. It is the first work in which the artist expands the art of drawing to a three-dimensional realm by drawing on unusual carriers.
The ‘Schuilkelder-atelier met eendekop en communistische hamer’ (in English: ‘Shelter-Studio with Duck’s Head and Communist Hammer’) (1991-1992) in turn, exemplifies the artist's predilection for hard-to-reach, hidden places. They function as an experimental laboratory for new thoughts, far removed from the outside world. Fabre did not limit himself to small shelter-studio. This is evidenced in the life-size work ‘Schuilkelder-atelier voor de Chileense Kunstenaar-Krijgers en Kuisvrouwen I’ (in English: ‘Shelter-Studio for the Chilean Artist-Warriors and Cleaning Ladies I’) (2008), which is permanently housed at Deweer Gallery.
Drawings are the basis of Jan Fabre's artistic practice. The blue Bic-drawings and the brain drawings are autonomous, sketchy research drawings. In addition to well-known works as ‘De Roos van het Toezien’ (in English: ‘The Rose of the Look’) (1987) and 'Prometheus Landschaft' (in English: ‘Prometheus Landscape’) (1989), the exhibition will also include the series 'Doodshoofdvlinder in het Uur Blauw’ (in English: ‘Death’s-head Hawkmoth in the Hour Blue’) (1987). Jan Fabre was disposed to release this work from his private collection, and it will be shown here to the public for the very first time. ‘Doodshoofdvlinder in het Uur Blauw’ consists of a death's-head hawkmoth pasted onto white sheets of paper which are colored in with blue Bic ballpoint pen, to the point where the white of the paper almost completely disappears into a cosmic depth. The brain drawings, in turn, are the most direct rendition of Fabre's fascination with the human brain. The motif of the brain as a terra incognita has in the past decade become one of the main themes in the oeuvre of the artist. It functions as a dream zone in which numerous ideas take shape.