People of XXIst Century - Master Tradesmen, Fabbro, Romano di Lombardia, Italy

  • Jan Kaesbach
  • 2014
  • Inv. No. 16.15.02
  • Edition 30 + 2 AP
  • Categories: Persone, Movimento
Size S
32x43cm Dimensions
Looped digital file (from lossless Quicktime master) Technique
Svezia frame Mounting

The figure of the blacksmith revives the Latin concept of homo faber, the man capable of creating and constructing, who has devoted himself to the technique and knowledge of material, and makes manual labour something valuable. The subject is the metaphor of the contemporary artist who once again dons this guise to restore value to techne and art understood in the sense of skill and know-how. The work is characterized by the continuous movement of the flame that, always lit and dynamic, immediately reveals the hybrid nature of the work, straddling video and photography. The blacksmith is captured in his iconic, hard-edged and stern appearance. In keeping with the tradition of portraiture, his eyes are turned to the camera and the spectator, with whom he creates a magnetic bond of attraction and distance, as in a dialogue between two different and irreconcilable worlds, between the spectator’s here and now and the craftsman’s elsewhere.
With the People of the 21st Century project, Jan Kaesbach profoundly reflects on the nature of photography, starting from its origins and adopting the genre of portraiture, to come down to our day through the use of moving images. The artist takes up the approach of August Sander, the famous German photographer known for the neutral character of his portraits. Applying the concepts of video to photography and the classic principles of mid-eighteenth-century photography to video, Kaesbach creates a hybrid of the two arts, an almost painterly portrait that develops diachronically in the flow of time. Seated in front of the camera without paying attention to the timing of the perfect portrait, without posing his models and without setting up a spectacular backdrop, the artist records facial features and body movement, and extends exposure, shifting from fixity to barely perceptible movements. There is no story or sound: just the person’s breathing, the blinking eyelids and other tiny movements that make the human body alive. The Master Tradesmen series which is part of this project was made during a trip to Italy, where the artist portrayed workers and craftsmen in proud and monumental poses, people whose professions – blacksmith, stonemason, luthier, restorer – have become increasingly rare in the 21st century.
Jan Kaesbach lives and works in Frankfurt and London. He studied at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, where he was named best student in his year. He has worked with English artists who have won multiple awards, of the calibre of Justin Coombes and Tom Hunter. His works have been displayed at the University Club di Oxford, the Frankfurter Kunstverein and Christie’s Silent Auction (Frankfurt), and at The Other Art Fair in London. In 2012 he received acclaim from international critics and, despite his youth, he was awarded the prestigious Kevin Slingsby Prize and the Stauder from the Kunsthaus in Essen. In July 2013 he participated in the Deutsche Börse Residency programme at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, and a few months later he was a finalist for a scholarship offered by the city of Frankfurt. The following year his works were auctioned by the Atelierfrankfurt/Christie’s in Frankfurt, gaining great market success. From March to May 2015 he was Artist-in-Residence at the famous Alte Spinnerei contemporary art centre in Leipzig (Germany). In 2016 he took part in the Art Miami, in the Expo in Chicago and in the MIA Photo Fair (Milano). He won several prizes, among which two artistic stays (in Leipzig in 2015 and in Bergamo in 2014) and the Platform Graduate Scheme, Modern Art Oxford in 2012.