Johan Creten: Le Cœur qui déborde
Le Cœur qui déborde (The Overflowing Heart), is an installation of 40 sculptural works in ceramic stoneware and resin by Johan Creten at the Abbey of Beaulieu-en-Rouergue in France through October 1, 2023.
The Center of National Monuments in France (Centre des Monuments nationaux), presents a carte blanche exhibition of work by Johan Creten in the Abbey of Beaulieu-en-Rouergue. The exhibition opens one year following the reopening of the abbey after its extensive renovation.
Across this historic property, from the nave, cellar and the chapter house, Creten has installed forty works including 35 pieces never before exhibited publicly, made in ceramic, bronze and resin. Titled Le Cœur qui déborde (The Overflowing Heart), the exhibition is a unique dialogue between the sober and sweeping architecture of the Cistercian abbey and Creten’s wildly fantastic artistic objects.
Creten, who was born in Belgium, graduated with a degree in painting and drawing at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent in 1985. He first started experimenting with clay by chance, thanks to the discovery of a ceramic studio left by students in the previous year. He began applying ceramics into his paintings and slowly moved more into object-based work, sculptural ceramics that are often figurative or allegorical. Creten is considered a pioneer, along with a handful of other artists including Lucio Fontana and Roger Herman in bringing ceramics into the contemporary art world vocabulary.
The Overflowing Heart takes its name from the installation in the Chapter House, known as the ‘heart’ of the Abbey but it is also a reference to the heart as a symbol of love and emotion. Creten has imbued his sculptures with a fantastical aura – part sea creature part goldly beast, a fusion of the sublime and the ridiculous.
In the light-filled nave, a series of figurative sculptures, which don’t refer to any one particular figure, are placed on multi-coloured pedestals near a monumental sculpture titled, “The Great Hypocrite” that was specially designed for the Beaulieu Abbey. While in the darkened cellar, a frieze-like tableau of ceramic reliefs with imagery inspired by the history of Romanesque decoration and symbols line the walls. The sculptural patterns evoke a feeling of spirituality with their golden surfaces, creating a link between the contemporary and the past. In another space, large flower-like sculptures in decay or morphosis are placed on low wooden tables, the reflection of a nearby stained glass window is centred within the installation. As art historian and art critic Claude Lemoine writes, “This oceanic exhibition hoists the world into a gigantic tide, when the heart overflows, when beasts become bogged down or scream, when gold is entangled with mother-of-pearl, impurity with the immaculate, the grandiose with detail, great church organs with small things, profusion of poverty.”
The Overflowing Heart (Le Cœur qui déborde) is on view at the Abbey of Beaulieu-en-Rouergue through October 1, 2023.
The sculptor Johan Creten will be the fair guest of honour 2024 of the new international fait ceramic brussels and, as a member of the advisory board, will contribute to the fair’s programming and take part in the selection of galleries. ceramic brussels, the international fair dedicated to contemporary ceramics, will be held from 25 to 28 January 2024 on the Tour&Taxis site. The fair will bring together more than 60 galleries, institutions and key players in contemporary ceramics in the heart of Brussels in a unique scenography.