For the exhibition Unleashed, the Dutchman Hans Lemmen and the American living in South Africa Roger Ballen stepped out of their comfort zone and entered into an experimental collaboration in order to create new work. The exhibition, compiled by German guest curator Jan-Philipp Fruehsorge, takes the visitor on a journey through the two artists' daring creative work process and shared interest in the raw and wild forces that govern both mankind and animals. Unleashed presents both joint work and individual work by Lemmen and Ballen.
Despite the physical distance between the two artists, Hans Lemmen and Roger Ballen have built up a friendship over the years and have followed each other's work with great interest. This interest forms the basis for their decision to explore new territory, leave the beaten track and start up a new joint project: Unleashed. Their collaboration has produced a blend of photography and drawing, whereby technical borders appear to blur and the works develop in a dialogue in which the artists experiment with new techniques, textures and ways of forming and arranging materials. A whole new oeuvre is presented, by two artists who use each other's art as their raw material. For this exhibition, the Bonnefantenmuseum is collaborating with Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris, where the exhibition was presented from 7 March to 4 June 2017. Together they issued a bilingual publication, which was published by Kerber and contains texts of Stijn Huijts, artistic director Bonnefantenmuseum, Claude d'Anthenaise, director Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature and guest curator Jan-Philipp Fruehsorge. Saskia Vredeveld made an accompanying video.
About the artists
Hans Lemmen (1959, Venlo) and Roger Ballen (1950, New York) each have their own way of creating powerful mythological creatures and various symbolic and non-symbolic animals, which form a reflection of our fragile civilisation. Lemmen's work consists of intense figurative images in the form of drawings and sculptures. He finds his motifs in the areas of natural history, archaeology and palaeontology, as well as in the deep, hidden parts of mankind that are still at a mythological primal stage of civilisation, where instinct, humour and the grotesque are the elements that shape our existence. Roger Ballen is known for his black and white photos of the dark theatre of the subconscious and the absurd. His oeuvre has gradually developed from a form of staged documentary photography, of people on the fringes of society, to a new form of image production. Ballen is absolutely radical and free of self-imposed restrictions and public decency. He creates works that hit his viewers hard, because he presents them with uncomfortable and irritating scenes that combine abstract elements, like lines and signs, with the physicality of his protagonists. To call Ballen's working method photographic would only be a half truth, as he stretches the limits of the medium to the extreme.
Unleashed is an excellent example of the collaboration between the Bonnefantenmuseum and artists, in a tradition that not only shows an artist's work, but also gives a completer picture of his or her practice. This approach is part of the museum's deliberate focus on the 'secret canon'; a direction that distinguishes the Bonnefantenmuseum in the Dutch museum landscape for the distinctive emphasis and priorities in its programming.