Nathalie Obadia has the pleasure of presenting Foolhardy Boarding a Lost State of Mind, a new exhibition by Joris Van de Moortel, in her Brussels gallery. The works presented in this exhibition explore an apocalyptic imaginary, mixing references from art history and the Middle Ages, from Christianity and popular folklore, as well as from literature and music. They invite us to reflect on our current situation and our relationship with the world, of which we seem, through the artist's work, to be both masters and victims. Throughout his oeuvre, the artist has used a wide range of media: collages, installations, musical performances, drawings...This exhibition presents his most recent artistic exploration: large paintings on canvas, a continuation of his watercolours first shown in the exhibition Les Paradis Artificiels (2021).
In these new works, Joris Van de Moortel takes up a medium that historically echoes the references he invokes in his work. The artist dialogues with the paintings of the Flemish Pieter Brueghel, the English painter William Blake and the Belgian James Ensor. Motifs such as the Dance of Death (taken from the works of Hans Holbein) or the figure of Urizen (the old man who embodies wisdom, the architect of the universe) are applied to the canvas with the woodcut technique, which the artist already used earlier in his installations, and onto which he then applies layers of oil paint. The imprecision of this medium blurs certain details, inviting the viewer to immerse him or herself in the depicted scene in order to grasp all of its nuances. According to the artist, "these works turn the worldview of the 16th century on its head and hold up a mirror to the struggles of our time, reflecting, in this way, a chaotic era."
Installations made up of various elements, such as neon lights, broken guitars, Plexiglas etc. evoke both the assemblages of Robert Rauschenberg as well as the surrealist and mythological universe of Leonora Carrington. Joris Van de Moortel creates performances that are based on improvisation, music and experience, using heterogeneous elements such as water, fire and wax (glass, wax, fire, white, smoke, nature, vandal - the artist's personal reinterpretation of the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith).The works If 6 turned into 9 (i don't mind) le trou du fou (guitar) and If 9 turned into 6 (i don't mind) le trou du fou (door for a hat head) are remains of performances, with a carefully considered arrangement and aesthetic. They function as memento mori of the destructive energy that flows between the artist, the spectators, his musicians and his props during these often unpredictable performative moments. This is evidenced in the video Weird Weirdness - Bizarre Bizarrerie, to which we can trace the genesis of several of the works presented here. These performances are also a way for Joris Van de Moortel to write his own mythology, which he extends with the development of a Tarot card deck, also shown here in the exhibition for the first time.
The phenomenon of a change of state, of transition, fascinates the artist and can be seen throughout his artistic practice. Both the form and the subjects of certain works evoke passages in the broadest sense of the word: the passage from life to death, symbolised by the ship (Ship of Fools), guided by The Figure of the Fool, which takes its passengers to a fate as murky as the water on which they are sailing. The passage from the divine to the earthly, from order to chaos, is evoked by the Tower of Babel, the ultimate symbol of human hubris, or by the figure of the transi (a masked skeleton with a human face who entices the living so as to take them to the world of the dead).
In this exhibition, Joris Van de Moortel continues his exploration of our time and his place as an artist, both observer, alchemist and participant in our dissonant world. Through his works, he invites us to embark on a ship with an uncertain destination, whose safe arrival we oddly seem to be responsible for.
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