“The Shape of Gold”, Jan Fabre “A Devilish Ashtray”, 2020
A Devilish Ashtray, 2020
silicon bronze, gold leaf
26,9 x 15,8 x 13,7 cm
BUILDINGBOX presents, from May 7th, 2021 to June 6th, 2021, a work by Jan Fabre (Antwerp, 1958), the fifth artist of The Shape of Gold, the annual exhibition project curated by Melania Rossi, which investigates the use of gold in contemporary artistic research through the works of twelve artists invited to compete with the chosen theme. The installations are visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the window in via Monte di Pietà 23 in Milan.
Jan Fabre has made countless self-portraits over the course of his career, in the form of sculptures, drawings, film-performances. Following in the footsteps of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque masters, the artist uses himself as the first source of anatomical and psychological studies. The representation of the man, in Fabre’s work, matches the tale of the artist’s condition as a metaphor for the human condition, tended between finitude and eternity. His life-size self-portrait entitled Je suis une erreur, is a bronze sculpture that cries and laughs at the same time, thus expressing the paradox of human life far from any form of existential cynicism. The artist exposes himself and acts as a mirror to the observer.
“I am a mistake
Because I want what I can’t have
(lights a cigarette)
I am faithful to the pleasure
that is trying to kill me”.
These words are taken from the monologue with which Jan Fabre, in 2007, staged his manifesto of obstinate and opposite faith, I am a mistake.
The man, the artist, aware of his own destiny, lauded the cigarette and the self-destruction that derives from it, openly affirming that he himself is a mistake, because he does not respect the rules and demands immortality.
In the Flemish iconography of still life and vanitas, the pipe appears to indicate the transience of life, its being destined to dissolve, just like smoke, like tobacco that burns and is consumed marking the passing of time. The vanitas of Fabre’s omnipresent cigarette, like all vanitas, is as well memento mori, but above all it is the irresistible charm of what vanishes to change shape continuously.
Devilish Ashtray, Jan Fabre’s work for the The Shape of Gold project, is a self-portrait with devil horns, mouth wide open in a mocking tongue, ready to receive the cigarette butt. Fabre declares a metamorphic and rebellious spirit that overcomes boundaries, that wants to make the impossible possible at any cost, that starts a war in paradise with its Promethean genius.
In other words, the artist surrenders his soul to art and agrees to pay the price. After all, the devil is the inventor of the metamorphosis, and the daimon, halfway between the human and the divine, is the intermediary between these two dimensions for the Greek philosophy.
The gold leaf gives the sculpture an aura of spirituality that is linked to the study of the masters of the past; the color used in Medieval and Renaissance paintings to represent the superhuman becomes, for the contemporary artist, sculptural material for his self-portrait.
Fabre-devil overturns the rules, celebrating the all-human anarchy of art and life with gold.
“I am a mistake and I love it”, the artist would say.