The Huberty & Breyne | Châtelain gallery is delighted to announce that, from 26 May to 17 June 2023, it will be hosting the first solo exhibition by the Brussels-born artist Milan Jespers (b. 1992).
The title of the exhibition "Cénotaphes" refers to a monument commemorating a dead person but containing no physical remains. Each work is executed with extreme skill and pays homage to some aspect of humanity - mutilated bodies accompanied by delicately transformative motifs; rites and rituals; joyous, painful and vainglorious mysteries of our civilisation.
The artist uses 19th-century photographs as his primary inspiration. These images reflect an era where spirituality and superstition, though dying out, nevertheless continued to coexist with the new world of modernity, rationality and industrialism.
Most of the work in the exhibition - paintings, drawings and engravings - was produced between 2021 and 2023.
Milan Jespers came early to painting. From a tender age, he was already winning prizes for skilfully painting on small figurines and revealing a sharp eye and a love of detail that are both still evident in his work today.
At the age of 23, Milan Jespers graduated from the ESA Saint-Luc, in Brussels, where he was enrolled on the comics programme. His keen interest in history and in the narrative aspects of comic strip remain major influences in his current practice and watercolour gradually became central to his whole way of working, which he explains as follows:
"When I paint, I make my images look a little like photographs from historical, medical and anthropological archives - the sort of thing one might have seen in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
I am constantly on the lookout for documents (photographs, motifs and other materials), linking, cross-referencing, decontextualising and recontextualising, and then reappropriating them through painting. I use watercolour in an unconventional way, adding layer on layer to give it a density that is rare for watercolour as a medium.
I borrow aspects of early photography such as the highly static pose, the sense of solemnity, and the standard approach to centring and technical blurring. I apply them to my work while simultaneously integrating contemporary elements.
By associating and interpreting imagery in this way, I recreate something akin to the archives of a late-19th-century naturalist: a deliberately loose narrative inventory of images that sheds a different light on recent Western history, the way it represents bodies, its social and aesthetic conventions, its predatory policies, its relationship to Antiquity and to nature."
The work of Milan Jespers is an ode to seeing, capable of transforming - for the length of an exhibition - our relationship with history and with the present.
Exhibition from 26 May to 17 June 2023
Private view: Thursday 25 May, from 6.00 pm to 9.00 pm
Works available to view online from Friday 26 May 2023