Jan Lauwers is an artist who works in every art discipline, incarnating “Total Art”: a humanist form of art that is inclusive. The impact of Lauwers’ work is apparent from his winning the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale, one of the most important art events in Europe.
The jury’s report said: “The 2014 Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Jan Lauwers, an artist who has made theatre one of the highest forms of expression, and who since the founding of Needcompany has created works that combine words, movement, music and visual art. He has developed a personal style that is recognised by the world’s most significant festivals. Jan Lauwers is certainly the 21st century artist whose work comes closest to Wagner’s definition of the Gesamtkunstwerk. This consequently makes it one of the most refined embodiments of the fusion of the Dionysian and Apollonian in an unparalleled perfect form.”
The invitation extended by Qiu Zhijie and Ming Contemporary Art Museum, which has a special interest in performance art, is particularly appropriate to Jan Lauwers’ multidisciplinary world. The exhibition Silent Stories was conceived specially for McaM in Shanghai and brings the symbiosis of the various art forms to the fore.
The exhibition can be approached as a moving still life. It offers a wistful look at European art history and refers among other things to Feldhase (1502) by the Renaissance painter, drawer and humanist Albrecht Dürer, to the lions depicted by the Flemish baroque painter and drawer Peter Paul Rubens, to the surrealist poet and artist Marcel Broodthaers and such artists as Joseph Beuys and Marcel Duchamp, as well as Walt Disney. On the basis of his lifelong archives, Jan Lauwers is building a monumental installation in which he reinterprets past works and materials and confronts them with art history.
The artist creates landscapes that curve serenely and pensively question craftsmanship, virtuosity and emotion. As a creator of images and a storyteller, in his work Lauwers’ motto is that art cannot shock, but should communicate. This is why his human form of making theatre is world-renowned. Lauwers’ visual idiom embraces humanity with pensive images concerning man and nature.
Jan Lauwers: “For this exhibition I use so-called inferior material such as used flight cases, old plinths and pieces of discarded wood, to which I give a new value by transforming them into supports for images. Each installation is in fact on the one hand the literal recycling of old objects and on the other the recycling of art history itself, in this case, Western art. The questions I asked myself when making these new images for Shanghai and preparing for the exhibition were always about the function of art in society and the meaning of public space. The first work I created was a portrait of an old man in Shanghai that I drew using graphite on a piece of felt I had found. This kind, laughing man, whose name I do not know but whose face radiates an almost historic beauty, was a silent story and a cheerful reminder of my stay in China. This man’s smile was the key to the further development of the exhibition. My work is in fact always about beauty, humility and consolation, which have the same meaning in all cultures. Art brings about positive conflicts in public space and at their heart lies dialogue.”