With the exhibition ‘Jan Fabre - Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas’ (Vanity of vanities, all is vanity), Deweer Gallery presents an exclusive preview of a new series of mosaic works by Jan Fabre. These works will only be shown again in the great exhibition ‘Jan Fabre –Knight of Despair / Warrior of Beauty’ which will run from October 21, 2016 to April 9, 2017 in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the Hermitage, the new mosaics will come to be installed in the hall of the 17th-century Flemish art, in an area normally reserved for the paintings of Jacob Jordaens (Antwerp, 1593-1678). Technically, the Fabre mosaics are realized with thousands of iridescent wings of the green jewel beetle, just as in the work ‘Heaven of Delight’ (2002) which was installed on the ceiling of one of the rooms of the Royal Palace in Brussels, and Fabre’s series ‘Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo’ (2011-2013) and ‘Tribute to Belgian Congo’ (2010-2013), which were shown in 2014 at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev, Ukraine. The new mosaics in St. Petersburg include the first ever to be realized in a horizontal format (173 x 227.5 cm each). Vanity and fidelity are the two major themes in this new and impressive series. Both themes are common to the Flemish art from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as to the work of the Antwerp Baroque master Jacob Jordaens. Abstract concepts such as vanity (vanitas) and fidelity are represented in historical iconography through a variety of symbols. A skull and by extension the whole skeleton, an extinguished candle, wilted flowers, a clock, an overturned glass, they all symbolize vanity through transience. The dog, in turn, symbolizes fidelity, loyalty, devotion, and even subservience. In combination with a plethora of images that depict the uninhibited, purely instinctive behavior of dogs (copulating in the street, appropriating territory by lifting a leg against anything and everything, smelling and licking everything...) we soon understand that the symbol of the dog also stands for everything man deems beneath his dignity. The vanitas motif is a common recurring theme in Jan Fabre’s visual and theatrical oeuvre; it is indeed not the first time that the artist uses dogs or actors that imitate dogs in his work. In short, it is not surprising that, here again, Fabre makes generous use of these motifs. Fabre, in depicting dogs playing with a skeleton or dogs presenting a clock under the motto ‘Adsum, qui feci’ (Here I am, (the one) who did it), to mention only these examples, portrays his vision of the transience of earthly life in a very penetrating manner: man must commit himself to ideals that transcend the temporal, such as Beauty. Anything else is irrelevant.
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