Review: Jan Fabre's Skulls Made Of Beetles

Jan Fabre, Ronchini Gallery ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 32 months ago
Review: Jan Fabre's Skulls Made Of Beetles Jan Fabre, Ronchini Gallery 4
A multi-coloured, iridescent skull holds a magpie between its teeth. Photo Claudio Abate, courtesy the artist and Ronchini gallery.

Skulls and art have a long history together, from the vanitas paintings of the 16th century through to that work by Damien Hirst. This, however, is the first time we've seen skulls made out of beetle shells.

Whether Jan Fabre's skulls have a magpie or a flail between their teeth, they shimmer with a natural iridescence that's both beautiful and grotesque. It's not all skulls either; legs and torsos take on a vivid green or a dull red, depending which insect shells have been used.

Aside from making visually striking sculptures, there are many themes behind this seemingly odd choice of material for Fabre's artworks. He's exploring life and death and the interactions between humans and the natural world around us. Some of the works are shaped like sections of armour and hint at the fragility of defence mechanisms; the hard exoskeleton of a beetle protects it, yet conversely these works made from the shells seem extremely fragile to us.

These aren't new themes for an artist to explore, but we've not seen them presented in such an aesthetically striking way before.

The theme of defence is evident in this skull holding on to a whip. Photo Claudio Abate, courtesy the artist and Ronchini gallery.
Two of the torsos on display in the gallery. Courtesy Ronchini gallery.

Jan Fabre: Knight of the Nights is on at Ronchini Gallery, 22 Dering Street, W1S 1AN until 19 March. Entrance is free.

Last Updated 16 February 2016

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