Capturing the fleeting for a moment -
The art of Béla Pablo Janssen
Béla Pablo Janssen (BPJ) lets himself be driven by the substance of life - this substance is both creative drive and creative impulse for him. He surfs, scans his surroundings, captures impressions - his gaze attentive to the everyday as well as the extraordinary. His work is thus created in close connection with his own biography and against the background of a thoroughly relaxed artistic self-questioning. The artist, born in Cologne (Germany) in 1981, combs through his experiential worlds, which present themselves to him like a rich repository of memories and condensed experiences drawn from private and professional contexts.
BPJ is both the perceiving subject and the object of an examination that centers on his own perception. Attentive witness of his states of consciousness, he always strives to maintain the elasticity of mind and spirit through independence from temporal and spatial circumstances. Thus he pursues the expansion of his own intellectual and sensual horizon through the self-imposed mobility of an almost nomadic existence and the frequent changes of place associated with it. Like the traveler or even the drifter, he is deeply involved in the exchange with a constantly changing outside environment. He carefully registers casual observations as well as lasting occurrences, experiences both superficial encounters and emotionally intense relationships. The impressions he tracks down are excerpts from life flowing into an "anarchive," an inventory of (random) visual and textual material that BPJ has accumulated over many years, including faded family photos, posters, overexposed slides, publications, quotes, mementos, personal notes, snapshots. Also items taken from public urban space - torn off scraps of posters and graffiti tags - form part of the collection of motifs that BPJ then, in a process of creative recycling, condenses pictorially and transfers into new, poetic contexts of meaning. Thus he himself calls the work that emerges from the "anarchive" a "docufiction". Simultaneously documentary and fictional, introspective and imaginative, it oscillates between the experienced and the invented.
Actor in his own life surroundings, BPJ exposes himself to permanent self-observation. This also includes the experimental, playful reflection of the role of the artist between self-stylization and search. BPJ shapes himself as the protagonist of a narrative, whereby his own name simultaneously serves him for self-assurance and alienation (in the sense of an estranging "I am an Other"). Making use of the concentrated suggestive power of his second first name, "Pablo," which is officially registered in his passport, BPJ lays a trail that leads directly toward the prominence of a famous artist persona while simultaneously distancing himself from this artificial Alter Ego. With the offensive use of "Béla Pablo", which appears auratically charged as a typographically striking label or logo on the exhibition posters, BPJ publicly presents his own brand. Whilst propagating his own work, he also coquettishly parodies artistic self-representation and marketing marked by egomania.
Standing at the center of BPJ's flexible artistic approach, then, is first of all the appropriation of found and existing events and items. BPJ absorbs what is offered, he draws, films, takes notes, records sounds. As in sampling, he utilizes the recorded fragments and excerpts, duplicates, arranges, compiles, composes. Just as he moves freely – a wanderer between the worlds of experience and image – and easily combines fact and fiction, BPJ glides smoothly between genres of photography, painting, drawing, and graphics. His works prove to be multi-media experimental arrangements, inherent with the airy openness of ephemeral phenomena. In the lightness of interpenetrating, shifting layers, notes and sketches overlap, translucent, palimpsest-like traces point in a symbolic way to former narrative connections of the involved paper scraps and image segments, but always stand for themselves as detached entities, like hints, echoes.
A deeply romantic vein, a yearning nature imbues the work of Béla Pablo Janssen. The series of "Sonnenzuwendungen" (Dedications to the sun), quiet, concentrated, observations of the delicate color gradients of the rising and setting sun, appear like meditative exercises. The conceptual repetition of the same motif results in melancholy atmospheric images, in which the subtle coloring of the atmosphere hints at the transience of the moment. In a series of coarse-grained nude images, the female figures appear like faint traces of a formerly personalized photograph. It seems that PBJ explores the development of an image in increasingly fleeting stages until reaching the point of vanishing through many reproductions and variations of an original by means of screen-printing technique and further treatment with spray paint and gouache. As in other works by BPJ, the recurring motif appears in its various states that emerge from conditions based on the material and medium deployed. Dissolved to mere hints and almost reduced to anonymity the displayed women are detached from their individual origin. Are they lovers or just stray images, taken from a magazine? Corresponding to the degree of personal attachment and detachment their images occupy a field of ambiguity between appearance and disappearance, presence and absence. This passing corresponds – in a thoroughly melancholic sense – to the existential en passant of the – experienced? – moment, the merely temporary presence of the – adored? – person depicted.
In addition to the principle of presence and absence, the compositions are determined by the interplay of emptiness and fullness, exterior and interior, foreground and background. Often an object-like structure is included within the overall arrangement. In these picture-within-a-picture constructions, a pictorial motif – sometimes representational – is surrounded by a wooden border that is set into the closed canvas surface as a structuring frame. It appears as a radical opening of the illusionistic painting plane, giving way to a collage form expanding in time and space. Through this special presentation - as if enclosed by a shrine - a banal thing, a ripped piece of a poster, is stripped of its everyday reality of commonly perceived worthlessness. Instead it occupies a fixed place in the pictorial space and appears, as it were, precious, even sublimated. Touched briefly and used selectively, it remains locked in time and space for a moment before undergoing another transformation in Béla Pablo Janssen´s subjective cosmos.
Bettina Haiss, Cologne 2022