This vision of Venetian mythology continues in the next room with the works of Johan Creten.
For the artist, “Venice is the city of all fantasies, a mirage, a phantom, a siren – a city with a beauty that’s vivid, brutal, decadent, delirious.” Forces of seduction and life, the siren and water are also forces of death. An alarming figure in a disappearing world, the enigmatic siren arouses a submersive emotion.
From the first large, non-figurative sculpture, in clay, springs an emotion generated by the instinctive working of the earth. In a play of contrasts, the second large sculpture, in resin, is revealed in all its transparency and contemporaneousness to hint at its internal structure.
His two sculptures dialogue with a set of Venetian portable bronzes from the artist’s personal collection. These sculptures in differing sizes reference his creative process, since at the start of each work, Johan Creten makes small clay sculptures that travel with him and absorb his life and experiences before being reborn on a larger scale and travelling to other destinations. The ensemble resonates with his edition of La Laguna presented in the installation by Gregor Hildebrandt. A bronze miniature of a siren immersed in translucent blue-green wax, with the green and iodized colours and scents of the lagoon, emerges as the candle burns down, recalling the ominous Venetian waters of the acqua alta (seasonal partial flooding).
Interview with Johan Creten
Born in 1963 in Belgium. Lives and works in Paris.
Recognised as a sculptor at the forefront of the revival of ceramics in contemporary art, the artist, Johan Creten has been working on the move for almost forty years, from Mexico to Rome, from Miami to The Hague.
He started working with clay in the late 1980s. He explains the appeal of the earth as a ‘poor, dirty, ordinary, almost vulgar material, but which nourishes’, and describes bronze as a “sort of taboo in the contemporary artworld, with its strong link to history, an occupation, a bourgeois art and this idea of creating a work for eternity.”
Known for his allegorical sculptures in ceramic and bronze, since the 1990s he has continued to produce representations of a world filled with poetry, lyricism and mystery. They underline the importance of beauty in his work and reaffirm his humanist conscience and the social and political resonance of his artistic practice.
In his creative process, Johan Creten mentions “Slow art” and the need for a return to introspection and exploration of the world with its individual and societal torments.