nca | nichido contemporary art is pleased to present Belgian artist Jean-Luc MOERMAN’s solo exhibition.
Moerman entered the limelight with his gigantic paintings filing public spaces and museums, and ever since his career has been extremely variegated including collaborations with firms, exhibitions at museums and at international venues both on a national and international scale.
Whether large-scale works or small ones, Moerman creates works that show no hesitation through the repetition of unique images and while capturing the structure at once. His paintings that seem to flow free, intrepid and meticulous, swiftly respond to the subject and the environment, ceaselessly altering their appearance.
Marking the artist’s 4th exhibition at nca, this show is presenting some recent large-scale works and tattoo-drawings artworks realized on famous images.
Motifs that embody history and their imminent awakening
The first time I came across Jean-Luc Moerman’s works was on occasion of his first solo exhibition in Japan, Tattoo Project, which took place in September 2005 at nca | nichido contemporary art. Celebrities’ pictures from posters, free-papers, and magazines were covered, head-to-toe, in black-monochrome tattoos. Furthermore, an organic-like, dynamic wall painting had taken over the actual gallery space, as if evoking the tactile perception of an alien body. Both tattoos and graffities on walls were, during certain times (even now), and in certain countries and areas, illegal practices, and while now they are accepted to some degree as an artistic expression, there is still a persisting negative image attached to them. (*1)
When it comes to contemporary iconized celebrities, we hold a strong visual idea that leads us to identify them as some sort of brands. However, those faces covered in tattoos by Moerman’s hand, not surprisingly, are transformed into completely different characters. Claude Lévi-Strauss, a Belgium-born social anthropologist who studied the Maori tattoo culture, said that “decoration is actually created for the face; but in another sense the face is predestined to be decorated, since it is only by means of decoration that the face receives its social dignity and mystical significance”.(*2) Taking into consideration this concept, too, we can say that Moerman’s Tattoo Project aims to put off balance the existing set of values, and digs up the true nature that hides behind fabricated iconographic images. Moreover, tattoos are, by their very own nature, destined to decay following the death of the body that is hosting them. Nevertheless, this body of works, conceived by the artist as an eternal entity, becomes about preserving forever the set of values and ethics societies embody at the time the work is created.
The artist Wim Delvoye, known for the use of contradictory and symbolic motifs in his work, such as fashion brand logos and body wastes, worked on the project “Art Farm” (Beijing, China/ 2004-2005) where he tattooed live pigs. (*3) On the other hand, Moerman carried on a collaboration with the famous French leather-bags brand LONGCHAMP, tattooing the products with his drawings, (2009). Considering Delvoye’s approach with pigs, symbol of good fortune and wealth in the Greater China, and the ambivalent set of values that tattoos, with the stigma they bear, create, could it be that Moerman is identifying the history of his home country, Belgium, with its long years of external domination and conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, with a “sacrificial” disposition that the story of Europa (Greek myth of goddess Europa and the bull) from which the term Europe derives, symbolizes? Furthermore, I cannot help feeling as if there is some sort of teasing attitude towards high-class fashion brands that can be interpreted in terms of the worship of material goods and money which has its origin in the old testament story “The Golden Calf”.
Moving on, directing our gaze to the wall, the wall painting, up until now narrowly isolated, and the tableau works appear as if they have been growing into one entity from his previous exhibition “transgenerationconnection” (nca /September 2013), as if they have become one whole big installation work. It seems as if they are penetrating at once the history of painting, from ceiling and wall painting, to the introduction of canvas painting in the 17th Century, passing through wooden board painting represented in the form of icons. And yet, if we consider the wall graffiti around cities the very origin of graffiti art, we can say that, while still maintaining a so-called graffiti-style, some of the works Moerman has made on commission are much closer to religious paintings on chapels’ walls, which represent the very beginning of painting. In this way Moerman’s works with their motifs are retracing the world history, looking back at our foundation, while perpetually integrating the holy dimension with the worldly one.
His new paintings appear to us as if the motifs are moving. In Moerman’s works, so organically represented, the motifs will ultimately awake pretty much in the same fashion as these words describe: “up to a certain point, the pattern that tattoos possess will cease to be just a pattern, and something completely new will add up. (omission) once (the tattoo) penetrates the skin, while quietly, it will start to breathe as a “living creature” from deep down inside the body”.
Daisuke Miyatsu (Art Collector)
1: A national ban outlawed tattoos in Japan in 1872 (Meiji 5) under the government’s concerns over the foreign presence. Eventually enforced with the Minor Offensive act in 1948 (Showa 23), the ban stood in place for over 76 years during which time tattoos were considered illegal, leading to their becoming one of the full-scale symbols of illegal underground societies.
Furthermore, in September 2017, on occasion of the contested violation case of the Medical Practitioners Act, discussing whether the tattoo practice could be considered a medical procedure, it was ruled that such practice it is indeed of a medical nature, and the tattoo artist object of the investigation was found guilty. On the other side, in February 2018, the U.S. District Court ruled that the developer who destroyed the graffiti work at the well-known location “5 Pointz”, in New York City, would pay a compensation for damages of 6,750,000 US dollars to the 21 artists who made the graffiti. This is a revolutionary decision with the Federal Law recognizing the necessity to protect graffiti art. 2: Timon Screech (translation: Hiroki Takayama) “Shunga: Katate de yomu Edo no e”, Kodansha 1998, pp. 67
3: Delvoye, Wim “Art Farm” https://wimdelvoye.be/work/art-farm/art-farm/ 4: Miyashita, Kikuro “Tattoo and nude art history”, NHK Publishing Inc., 2008, pp. 194
Others Reference Sources
Koyama, Noboru. Nihon no irezumi to Eikoku ōshitsu—Meiji jidai kara Daiichi Sekai Taisen made (Japanese Tattooing and the British Monarchy—From the Meiji Era to World War I). Fujiwara Shoten, 2010
Born in Brussels, 1967.
Recent Main Solo Exhibitions: Reding & Nosbaum, Luxembourg, Luxembourg (2017) / Docksbruxsel, intervention in situ, Brussels, Belgium / Espace Louise 186, Brussels, Belgium (2015) / Reding & Nosbaum, Luxembourg, Luxembourg (2015) / Alife, Marie-Christine Gennart, Contemporary Art, Brussels, Belgium (2014) / Hybridsky, Place du Carré des Arts, Mons, Belgium (2014) / Untitled, Galerie Frank Schlag & Cie, Essen, Germany (2014) / Sportcomplex Drieburcht, Tilburg, Netherlands (2014) / nca | nichido contemporary art, Tokyo (2013) / Transgenerationconnection, Galerie Suzanne Tarasiève, Paris (2013) / Transgenerationconnection, Galerie Leu, Munich, Germany (2013)
Recent main group exhibitions: Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium (2017) / Canvas, West Palm Beach outdoor Museum show, Miami, US (2015) / Galerie Suzanne Tarasiève, Paris, France (2015) / Galerie Leu, Munich, Germany (2015) / Centre Albert Marinus, Brussels, Germany (2015) / Macro -Musée d’Art Moderne, Rome, Italy (2015) / Moderne de la ville de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium (2015) / Knokke, Brussels, Belgium (2014) / Emme Otto gallery, Rome, Italy (2013) / Academia Belgica, Rome, Italy (2013) / Galerie AND, Barcelona, Spain (2013) / Cabinet de curiosités contemporain, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2013) and others