Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bestiary :: Insect Art

Spurred on by the entrancing spectacle of Jennifer Angus's installations, and with vague memories of pictures made from butterfly wings at the back of my skull, I took time out from my attempts to hunt down Straandbeasts, and went in search of insects instead. Luckily I was already in the Netherlands, because as soon as I heard about Jan Fabre I knew I had to know more.

It transpires that Fabre was once a Damien Hirst-like enfant terrible of the Belgian art world, notorious for using his own blood and sperm, raw steak and his girlfriend's menstrual blood. Then he discovered beetles and his work has centred around them ever since. Not only does he make sculptures encrusted in beetles, and performs dressed as a giant beetle (shades of Kafka here – unsurprising, I suppose, from someone who lives cheek to jowl with Europe’s most Byzantine bureaucracy), but he has even managed to convince the Belgium royals to share his passion. Fabre’s best known work, Heaven of Delight, is the ceiling of the spectacular Hall of Mirrors of Belgium’s 19th century Royal Palace. The new work was commissioned by the Italian-born wife of King Albert, Queen Paola, who wanted to brighten up the predominantly grey structure.

It took four months for 29 of Fabre's assistants to glue the glistening shells of 1.6million iridescent jewel scarabs to the ceiling, which is 26m long and 11m wide, in intricate patterns that include birds' wings, giraffes' legs and salamanders' eyes and the letter 'P' for Queen Paola. It is the first permanent artistic addition to the palace since Auguste Rodin produced some bas-reliefs for the building in the 19th century. The beetles were obtained by a team of entomologists who scoured the restaurants of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand where the creatures are regarded as a delicacy. (I checked with Inky on this one and he said they are delicious!)
"It looks like a kind of greenish, bluish, violet, yellow golden sea of light that moves around constantly, creating drawings using the light," Fabre told the Guardian. "It will never go away, the colour will never fade and it will stay there for hundreds of years. I am quite satisfied."
Unfortumately, some kind of jinx has made it impossible to bring you a decent picture of any of his work...

Examples of Fabre’s earlier work @ Galerie Mam >>
Some egs of Fabre’s sculptures @ Shugoarts >>
In the Guardian >>
Critical article : JAN FABRE'S 'TOTEM'; Judas kiss with made-up lips >>
Measuring the Clouds: A Conversation with Jan Fabre >>


Blogger snorri the goblin said...

Does it smell of Flit, then?

12:59 am  
Anonymous tiny-havoc said...

I once knew a gallery owner who collected C19th century fairy paintings made with butterfly wings. They were black ink works with panels cut to colour areas with the irridescent colors of the wings. Very beautiful, very strange. Rather twee No google image? - so perhaps they are rarer then i imagine...

9:34 pm  
Blogger Director said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:51 am  
Blogger Director said...

tiny-havoc, I'm so glad you asked. In fact I gathered up a tad more information on my travels -- but strangely less than I'd imagined. I too remember objects encrusted with butterflies wings -- but could find little visual evidence. But I'll direct Administration to post the modicum I did find...

And Snorri -- if that IS your real name, and not some alias designed to disguise your REAL identity. And agenda. Whatever. These were jewel scarabs that had had the guts sucked out, one by one, in restaurants across S.E. Asia. I am told -- and have in fact verified -- that they smell of lemongrass, ginger and nam-poc

12:56 am  
Blogger Laura said...

The following is a link to some great images of the ceiling (and some of the other contemporary art in the Palais Royal). It's in French, but clicking on the images on the right side leads to easily-navigable views.

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