Pioneer of the ceramics’ rebirth in contemporary art, Johan Creten is back with his exhibition named Entracte, his fourth solo show at the Parisian gallery. This exhibition can be considered as a symbolic pause. It’s an invitation to reflection and a way to take a deep breath.
With Entracte the artist underlines the importance of beauty in his work, while reaffirming his humanist consciousness and the social and political resonance of his practice. This exhibition is built as a dialogue with I Peccati, his monographic exhibition at the French Academy in Rome - Villa Medici, from 15 October to 31 January 2021.
In the main room, several ensembles collectively form a panorama that calls to mind a marine world. Algae and shells remain identifiable motifs, swelling the iconography in the room through their graphic nature and their manner. Several emerging Venuses are spiked with still humid petals. Their finery seems to consist of a density of tonic lips fixed in the impermeability of the glaze. One can smell the tide. The feminine contours take shape in series such as Odore Di Femmina and La Perle Noire, and of course The Herring, which surveys this drenched landscape in a god-like manner.
Clay is excremental, it’s the ashes of the dead, at the same time it’s mother earth, it links the sacred and the profane, in a brutal way, disgusting and magical at the same time.
Johan Creten constantly stimulates the temptation to touch. A primordial taboo in many religions, including the religion of art, contact feeds the swelling of desire, making the other senses seem like preliminaries with regard to the fulfilment it demands. The ultimate taboo often claims to preserve the status of untouchable works in contrast to the vulgarity of objects that can be grasped and handled. To caress a bronze, to touch a ceramic are acts of transgression.
Johan Creten opens up his shapes and their connotations enough not to freeze them in a single reading. The interpretations must remain malleable, from humor to disgust. He himself feeds off this ongoing quest for an image to gorge on.
With his new series of Bolders, seven possible seats each possess a deadly sin. The installation develops a certain symmetry with its Italian counterpart on display at the Villa Medici in Rome, to which an important monograph is devoted, ostensibly entitled I Peccati. Set up in the expectation of a catch, the situation recalls the stimulating articulation between pécheur (sinner) and pêcheur (fisherman).
The series entitled Glory testifies in particular to this act of evasion. Its golden luster prevents the gaze from anchoring itself, its luminous intensity making us skid on the reliefs. A certain dynamism operates through motion and light, affirming the kinetic component of these modules. Theirs is a penetrating perspective. It draws us into a hypnotic vortex which inhales, which exhales. The rays expand towards the baroque splendors erected to exalt the sacred, all the while contracting to pierce the most secret depths of human morphology. In the distance lies this original black hole, a gap. Let’s call it Vulva. And since everything has always passed through a slit, that is precisely where the artist wants us to begin.
To use beauty to talk about very serious subjects on a secondary level is very important to me. These hidden stories can be social, political or sexual, and these pieces open up slowly if you take the time to look at them from different angles.
Born in 1963 in Sint-Truiden, Belgium
Lives and works in Paris, France
Born in 1963 in Belgium, Johan Creten has been working on the move for twenty-five years, from Mexico to Rome, from Miami to Amsterdam, and most recently to Paris. He started working with clay in the late 1980s, when the medium was still seen as taboo in the art world: earth was deemed dirty and damp, while the creator was viewed as a usurper of God, transgressing religious interdicts. Yet clay represents the “Earth Mother,” linking the sacred to the profane. Creten is one of the earliest supporter of using clay in the context of contemporary art and is consid- ered, alongside Thomas Schütte and Lucio Fontana, to be a pioneer in the revival of modern ceramics, who continues to influence the next generation of artists.
—More about the artist