Artist: Sven ‘t Jolle
Exhibition title: The Good Shepherd (and other sculptures for the not so converted)
Venue: Voorkamer, Lier, Belgium
Date: October 10 – November 22, 2015
Photography: images copyright and courtesy of the artist, Voorkamer and Galerie Laurent Godin
The work of Sven ‘t Jolle usually originates in a sketch book. Unrestrained visual and linguistic associations are worked out page by page and generate unexpected connections. Throughout these sequences, one can witness his sculptural work take shape. Over the last twenty years, ‘t Jolle has thus created an elaborate archive of images in which visual art and social commentary interact.
Voorkamer invited Sven ‘t Jolle to visualize this artistic process in an exhibition, in order to offer some insight into his visual vocabulary. As a starting point, ‘t Jolle chose to work with the Christian origins of the ‘Heilige Geest’-site, which for centuries served as a poorhouse and now houses Voorkamer. The exhibition ‘The Good Shepherd (and other sculptures for the not so converted)’ will be a first elaboration of his ‘Good Shepherd’ project.
‘t Jolle’s new sculptural installation ‘The Good Shepard/ Pastoral Scene’ seems to be fitting into an art-historical tradition in which biblical sceneries are transposed to a local context. Instead of relocating his work to Flanders, the artist sets his work in the Australian village of Antwerp.
In doing so, ‘T Jolle – who was born in the Flemish city of the same name but has been living in Melbourne for a few years now – roots his work in stories of pastoralism and proselytism.
The former mission post of Antwerp is located in the vast Wimmera region, where settlers herded their sheep on the lands of the Wotjobaluk people as missionaries introduced the notion of the Lamb of God. These colonial origins form the basis of a visual interpretation.
The artist evokes thorny associations which, like his other works, opens up a broader critical story. Christian symbolism and other religious references merely form a first layer of meaning, which becomes clear in the selection ‘t Jolle made of his earlier works ‘inspired by Christianity’. These ‘Other works for the not so converted’ tackle a wide array of socio-political issues that haven’t lost any of their relevance today. The subtitle – which evokes the phrase ‘preaching to the choir’ – also suggests a critical stance towards the role art does (or does not) play in the societal battle of ideas.