A MACABRE repertoire of half-human beasties is unleashed at Le Musée de la chasse et de la nature in Paris this spring. Collaborating miles apart, South African photographer Roger Ballen and Netherlands-based illustrator Hans Lemmen create Unleashed, an unsettling combination of re-appropriated imagery which unearths Modern Man’s animalistic tendencies.
Ballen’s photographic scraps merge with Lemmen’s drawings to create a contemporary cave painting alongside animistic sculptures of the artists with their pets. Individual works by each artist are also on display including a video which documents their project. The show endeavours to convey the creative process of each artist and how their art thrives from the fusion of their differing practices. The collaboration has been an exciting challenge, as Lemmen explains, “This is the hardest thing I‘ve ever faced in my career. Until the last moment, I did not know if it would be possible to combine photographs and drawings.”
Ballen, a master of psychodramas creates highly original sets in unknown locations near Johannesburg in which marginalised individuals improvise their strange narratives and where animals mingle. His scenarios allude to human survival but man’s inability to escape from nature. Ballen explains, “I think that my works seek the animal at the heart of the human mind, the point where a man turns into an animal … ”
Ballen’s nebulous forms free repressed characters from wires and cables, as if releasing them from the constraints of modernity.
Lemmen’s graphics and sculptures are fictional works which explore the domains between animals and people. He is fascinated by pre-historic times when our ancestors lived in empathy with, not against, nature. Lemmen alludes to our primeval instincts,
“We are simply animals. We are animals with, of course, a more developed brain.”
Occasionally his work displays a curious role reversal in which Man appears to become a sacrificial offering, and animals are invited to take charge.
The show parades a grave and male-dominated world but also a few surprises, like this grisly cytoplasm ingesting human remains.
by Miranda Charalambous
Tel: 01 53 01 92 40
Front page image: Roger Ballen/Hans Lemmen, Oh No! 2016, Photograph, Courtesy of Roger Ballen and Hans Lemmen Private Collection