Time meets Time
J. F. Willumsen and Jørgen Haugen Sørensen
21. june – 30. December 2019
In the exhibition “Time Meets Time. J.F. Willumsen and Jørgen Haugen Sørensen” Willumsens Museum has invited one of Denmark’s most distinctive living sculptors, Jørgen Haugen Sørensen (1934), to engage in dialogue with a selection of J.F. Willumsen’s works. Haugen Sørensen has produced new sculptures for the exhibition, but existing works from the last 15 years will also be shown. In the exhibition localities his bronze sculptures, ceramic reliefs, drawings and lithographs meet Willumsen’s monumental marble relief, colourful paintings and expressive etchings.
Common to the exhibited works is a focus on human life as it is lived for better or for worse. Both Willumsen and Haugen Sørensen deal in their art with human existence – how we perceive what is outside us ad what is inside us, and what we do with and to one another. Their interpretation of the existential theme finds expression in a variety of ways, as they work in various media and look at the challenges of life from different ages. There will thus be points in common, convergences and clashes between the works of the two visual artists in the exhibition.
In the exhibition Willumsen’s monumental and classically inspired sculptural work The Great Relief (1893-1928) is paid a visit the by a number of Haugen Sørensen’s life-sized and expressively formed bronze figures bearing titles such as Innocent Guilt and The Superfluous. The Great Relief, which Willumsen also called “a poem about human life”, is an integrated tale of human existence created in a time of upheavals when the advance of modernity was undermining belief in ‘the grand narratives’. In the relief Willumsen depicts his faith in humanity’s ability to create its own values and give meaning to human life when that meaning is no longer given in advance, through self-awareness and a reflective attitude to one’s actions.
Haugen Sørensen works in an age when the grand narratives have finally broken down. He does not, like Willumsen, postulate a belief in the strong and powerful human being, and with his existential sculptures – standing, walking with despondent expressions, without goal and direction – he discusses the decline of modern humanity and the absurdity of life in a world in the grip of globalization, individualization, economic inequality and meaningless war.
The ideas for the existential content of The Great Relief came at a time when Nazism had not yet vitiated Nietzsche’s concept of the superman, and when the notion that the world was still developing in the direction of the better still prevailed. The horrors and atrocities of the First World War did however affect Willumsen’s view of humanity, and in a series of prints from the period he expressed the most shadowy sides of humanity as they are lived through and experienced in wartime, and in his motifs brings out the animal side of mankind – the instincts, the brutal and the primitive.
Haugen Sørensen’s work That’s why they call them dogs, a large tableau with dogs careering round in a huge fight, similarly points to phenomena one experiences in theatres of war where any kind of humane behaviour is out of the question. The behaviour of the dogs reflects that of humans, and Haugen Sørensen offers a raw interpretation of the human animal in its most ruthless and brutal. It is the struggle of all against all where only the strongest survive.
At other points in the exhibition Willumsen’s expressive paintings are seen with Haugen Sørensen’s expressive sculptures modelled in ceramics. Figures of naked, twisted human bodies covering their eyes and ears huddle together and bow their heads to the ground as if to protect themselves against outer or inner danger, and are seen in relation to Willumsen’s painting of a woman collapsing helplessly and despairingly on the beach while nature rages around her, and the family portrait around the supper table where danger and the unheimlich lurk just beneath the surface.