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Sans titre

Sans titre

Jan Van Oost
  • Artist (1961)

The Flemish artist Jan Van Oost, born in 1961 in Deinze, was only 23 when he started to take part in group shows in Belgium. The specific nature of his work resides in the use of objects which carry within them signs which are historical and laden with meaning: silver trays, swords and daggers, and mother of pearl , associated with precious materials such as slabs of marble, crystal glasses, and silk shirts and veils. “My work is a mental theatre which refers to secrets: a project, a conception of life. It is autobiographical, but ‘without biography’, viscerally baroque; a cocktail of human documents”, to use the artist’s own words. Even if Jan Van Oost’s compositions seem more raw, like the simple mirrors and the funeral urns that we find in the work Sans titre/Untitled, owned by the FRAC Centre (which the artist worked on during his stay at the Château de Trousse-Barrière at Briare-le-Canal), they are as elaborate as presentations with a “Mannerist” tendency. They are invariably dominated by obsessive interest in two major existential and classical themes which link him in particular to the Belgian symbolism of Wiertz, Spilliaert and Ensor: death and eroticism. His drawings are filled with emaciated bodies, scattered skulls, skeletons and stiff mannequins. Every work is loaded with a physical and moral seriousness, imbued with Baudelairean spleen (Baudelaire Suite). In his self-portraits, which mix both portraits of the artist and those of the onlooker, there is an emphasis on the theme of vanity, involving the issue of seduction, and the ambiguity between the glorification of life, the illusion of order, and the harshness of their finiteness. Jan Van Oost’s oeuvre has been regularly exhibited all over the world since 1984, with one of his latest exhibitions being held in Turin in 2011.

Nadine Labedade