Foreword to the "Face à Face" catalog galerie L&Z Nivelles
An emancipated disciple of Chillida, Johan Baudart imposes a mano à mano with the primitive arts. He slaloms, dashes, distorts, twists and turns, always in search of a sensitive truth and constantly surrounded by assumed doubt. In this precarious equilibrium of penumbra, Johan Baudart breathes, transpires between voids, volumes, shapes and light.
The primitive arts and their tribal foundations are the very essence of art, because, as Johan repeats, they bring together religion, the sacred, culture, mysticism and beauty. Arts whose primary function has been to heal, protect and guide human souls towards excellence since the dawn of time.
It was in these raw, fundamental arts that the essential reflections of the earliest civilizations were cast and molded. They are the most solid of foundations, the roots on which Johan Baudart works and rises a little higher every day.
An obvious foundation for the artist, Johan Baudart, a minor of substance and form, very early on and instictively felt more than understood that this "sacred" was the essential, the roots where to track down the truth to avoid getting lost and move forward in the slimy artistic gloom of our contemporary societies.
A "sacred" that provides him with the fertile ground for sensual, compelling yet light-hearted projections and flights of beauty that grab you by the gut and can only be understood with the best in us.
But Johan Baudart hides us, forbids us reason, protects us from reason. He speaks straight to the heart, the animal, ancestral heart, deeply rooted in our "prehistory". The emotion is strong. It can confuse and sometimes irritate our everyday environment, where explanation is reassuring. Standing in front of his works, we are sometimes soothed by a rare feeling that pulls us upwards, to a place where beauty flirts with truth.
But this face-to-face encounter comes at a price for the artist: a paradoxical longing for profound solitude.
(Francisco Palomar Custance 2022)
Foreword to the catalog "Les Labyrinthes Intérieurs" Galerie Schlassgoart Luxembourg
I've always had a special relationship with sculptors who work in metal. Artists like Eduardo Chillida, Richard Serra and Bernar Venet fascinate me, as a man of steel, lines and monumental architecture. To find in them the mathematical rigor demanded by great constructions, and to find in them that extra soul that makes a work of art, is a match that overwhelms me.
My encounter with johan Baudart, a Belgian artist who lives and works in Mons and whose work is entirely in keeping with this industrial Wallonia marked by the steel industry, could not fail to be decisive. The sculptor, who is also a draughtsman, engraver and painter, opted early on for the steel that made the fortunes and misfortunes of so many people around him. A harsh, difficult, violent material that the hammer can only shape to its melting point. This violence is met by the creative energy of a warrior artist who gives new life to the scrap metal and large steel bars whose destinies he directs. In so doing, he appeals to the past, to the roots and to those "inner labyrinths" through which man, like artist, seeks his path. A life path strewn with pitfalls - the man's anxieties, the artist's experiments - which is, once again, not without references, it seems to me, to the world of mining.
Over the years, Johan Baudart's research has led him from simple geometric structures to intricate constructions, from abstract forms to suggestive figures. Then he moved on to other materials, today marrying stone and metal, playing with new correspondences, always entirely in his very physical relationship with the material he animates. And the sculptor plays with volumes and surfaces, voids and solids, creating tensions and harmonies, always on the lookout, always waiting, seeking to pierce beyond the material to the mystery that lies in everything. Drawings and engravings have appeared, reliefs that a nervous, incisive line imprints on the various arborescences through which the artist pursues her questioning. Works on paper using black and white, but also red. The red of life... and of molten metal.
(Bruno Théret 2012)
Preface to Fred Lanzenberg 1991 gallery catalog
Flight, flight, curves, counter-curves, deployment, ascent, but also fall, withdrawal, rest... out of this ceaselessly thwarted movement, this impetus almost always cancelled by its opposite principle, in which Icarus would recognize the wings of desire, Johan Baudart has made his necessity, giving rhythm in hard black iron to the capital letters of a sober, powerful poetics that initially largely inspired the human figure and nature.
Like "Walking Man", the famous Futurist sculpture in which Boccioni broke down the different beats of forward flight, creating the illusion of perpetual motion, Johan Baudart's works capture the very essence of movement, its nervous conductions, its vivid tensions, the way it suddenly seizes the void, that natural ally, to create meaning. The material, after all, is only there to capture the forces at work, delivering them, without canceling them out, to the welcoming space that opens up to these muscular graphics like a blank page to the arabesques of beautiful writing. But there's no affectation here, no calligraphy: the brutal energy of steel and the smooth work of the forger and welder compensate for the choreographic grace of the sculptures. The flight, it should be noted, are often the result of knots, breaks, little formal imbroglios that shatter the all-too-favorable arrival of a line or outline.
After all, nothing comes from nothing, and beauty itself, harmony, is a long struggle to conquer chaos. The best artists know this, just as they know that the finished work must retain something of this tension, this difficulty. And it's easy to see that these supple, freewheeling geometries, full of impromptu, about-turns and graphic play, are always on the alert, waiting to break, deliberately driven by the sculptor to that contentious point where, defying the laws of equilibrium, they risk collapsing. Aerial virtuoso play, in fact, is not a game, and the work appears playful and seductive only because lightness is sometimes the politeness of knowledge and mastery.
(Danièle Gillemon november 1991)
WATCH YOUR ANGLES ! Or the magnetism of cut stone.
Everything has been said about this obligatory destiny, torch picked up at the side of the road, mouth punctured by the wild grasses and the black smoke of the fires.
But has enough been said about the miracle of the man who hears steel? Who hears it and answers it? Who knows the magic words, those ancestral vibrations that manage to bend the universe at the level of men's eyes?
Unrealized desires of poor anarchic gods, Johan Baudart's sculptures have the bleeding angles of having cursed men too much.
They seek, alone, to give birth to a universal offspring, which cannot, however, be conceived without their human look, their touch, their gift to break as well as to build - the essential being that nothing is the same after their passage.
These sculptures grope in space, steel draughts, with a surface similar to a palm, with lifelines that burst the eyes of anyone who wants to see them.
They are masses that attract and repel each other, and end up colliding, shaking the continents. Immense plates, like a roll of sea water, which end up ravaging the coasts by unrolling their unshakeable tongue, flattening everything that runs, transporting whatever is carried.
Bring your ear closer.
Against the gnawing steel.
Maltreated, unloved, worked, worshipped, cursed and cursed again.
Rest your ear on its universal resonance. From the heart of the cathedrals of this mercenary genius come baroque voices pulsing from the depths of the earth of men. Sonorous, powerful, roaring, they are about to overturn everything.
(stephen Vincke september 2006)
"Johan Baudart, a work among his own."
What's behind Johan Baudart's black eagle silhouette?
To answer this question, nothing is worth approaching the man as he is. To be in the middle of his work - I don't necessarily mean to come and shoot him in the heart of his studio, but to approach him as a "creative organism", and to allow oneself to feel gently under the wings of the raven, the bloody chest that never stops exhaling.
First of all - let me come back to this - there is the general appearance of the man, his stature, his size, his posture. In a mixture of sobriety and elegance, if Johan Baudart stands upright, it is to better slide his past into the ground. He knows he is the antenna and the decoder, and thus embraces the birth of the message, its flight, its reception (the Grand Cirque). Unique, Johan Baudart is an integral part of nature, like a rock. His stature is his sincerity, the "practical" and functional application of a rustling pulpit.
Johan is always dressed in dark, a large black coat on his shoulders, asem the fire-blackened crust desperately embraces the porous tenderness of a white crumb. In short: the shell of the insect pest, which protects the tender organs from storms and blows.
The rough and thin features of the face, delicately wrinkled, the frank mouth, his quick smile, his wrinkled eyes: Johan's wilful face is halfway between that of the wise old oriental sage and that of the locomotive engineer. There is of course the pair of glasses. Ringed in black. Halfway up his nose. As if the vision of reality was only possible on the edge of a rift.
His hands deserve more attention than anything else, but I've already talked so much about their own lives that the risk of repeating the same music is hardly tempting. Nevertheless, I cannot pass over in silence, at the risk of appearing very incomplete, their omnipotence: each finger draws its strength from the mystery of Creation, from the lifeline to the end of the claws. The skin of Johan Baudart's hands is a rough cartography of man, which a handshake transmits in a flash.
At the risk of sounding trivial, Johan Baudart - his body! - is a very mineral crossbreeding of the following animals: eagle, vulture, mole, lynx,( etc) ... In short, a real connection between earth and sky. As if man, abducted by the wind, was trying to cling to the earth with the energy of despair, and this other, sliding on the air of time (nice music) was trying at all costs to land in emergency to escape the storm. A duality that the Greeks would have put into verse, that the Romans would have statued. Yet Johan comes to us in flesh and blood, as if to better reveal that in each one, in each fiber, in each blood, lies the primary meaning, and not in words or in hard matter there is no other eternity than the shadow of a heartbeat, each one his own.
But duality goes further, Johan Baudart is the perfect crossroads between hardness and tenderness. Darkness and whiteness. Fixity and movement. There is not the slightest movement, the slightest language, which does not have its opposite, its double - be it a twin friend or enemy. Thus his work on the roots that comes and goes between roots and crown, in a pendulum movement that gives transmission an intelligently choreographed image.
Johan Baudart is a mechanism that draws its substance not from the delicate pile of a precision clock, but from the double gearbox of a D9 bulldozer, the kind of machine powerful enough to knock down a mountain, and fill in a lake or a ravine. Thus Johan Baudart pushes back the obvious lands of life to better fill the mysterious, frightening lake of Death. Whoever walks on these freshly turned over lands, whose guts breathe the scent of a dry cemetery, can only be touched and, in doing so, brought back, feet together, in his condition of man, frightening tomb of flesh from which he tries to extract himself by entertainment and oblivion (of the small popular ways).
There is a "mania" which, in my opinion, speaks for the Baudart man. His slow, sober and sincere way of taking deep and interminable puffs at very small butts. The small incandescence then illuminates the silhouette of the man in a new light: that of a fine mechanic of Beau.
Stephen Vincke ( décember 2009 )
Baudart J. A MAN...
A man walks in a song of machine-gun fire, he's looking for a wreck...
A man wobbles Under a huge sky In his outstretched hands Crumpled metal sheets
Then it slumps, it collapses, Falls into the rusty tawny Mixes the blood that works, Finally rises again, The pliers of the lost syllabaries
A man cries out In the other blood of the forges, In jealous hands that close And stumps of angels still smoking In the flowing alphabet of the foundries
A woman finally unfolds Who signs her wanderings
With her broken wings On the snow of days Then some children
A man will be silent And this silence will have its letters Its elytra, its electrics
A man laughs, finally Chapped lips, wounded hands Dirty nails, snot in the heart Tired magician who exhausts the matter Of our fears, our palms, our dreams,
And a woman somewhere is crying
Jfl (08 november 2008)
For Johan, as a souvenir...
"Since you can't do mountains, make a mountain out of your sculpture."
This answer of André Wiillequet to the young sculptor who came to see him, after a serious accident, did he, as he says, support and comfort him in the continuation of the road he had started?
Johan was on his path, the one that the tragic loss of his father, a creator of forms, had undoubtedly opened up for him as a young child. Certainly still hidden, but germinated in the fruit, this path was already his.
He continued, persevered, brave and overcame obstacles. The tools that his father's hands had let slip from his hands, Johan will take them back, and continue the work he has begun. But from now on, this work will be his own.
The unacceptable may revolt him, but unjust fate will never bring him down.
From this voluntary, determined, mastered work will be born sculptures of controlled tension, strong lines drawn in space, vigorous and supple metallic lines, movements and rhythms seized like a snapshot, at the right moment of balance.
Françoise Willequet (February 2008))
Conversation with the shadow (text by Eddy Devolder)
Johan Baudart's scuptures are movements, figures that he works and shapes in a pure manner. They are gestures imposed on the metal so that it expresses what these gestures have of epic and beauty.
They are lines conferred to the iron, claw strokes in the tender flesh of space.
And when it sinks the bronze, it is with the unfurling of this line that suddenly becomes a lick of breadth, of this caress, of this slide drunk with a desire for peaks that it is measured.
These sculptures have a path, a history: they were born from the shadows, the khâ of the Egyptians, the yin of the Chinese, the second nature of many Africans, or rather they were born in the shadows, in the immaterial and elusive reflection of the recently completed piece.
When it is finished, he manipulates it for a long time, turns it in the right direction and contemplates the silhouette it projects on the floor or on the wall. For hours, until in the shape of the edges, curves, planes and masses stands the sketch of what he will try to capture in the drawing, first in the model before moving on to the full-scale sculpture.
This game, this way of questioning the shadow is not gratuitous. It could resemble a formal declination, it is on the contrary a form of interrogation.
A Lighthouse episode conditions the primary relationship with sculpture. It takes place at night on the old Brussels-Tournai road. A young sculptor, at the dawn of a promising career, crashes at the wheel of a car that he bought with the amount of a prize obtained in Italy for a sculpture he had exhibited there.
When he dies, trapped in a pile of sheet metal embedded in a tree, his son rebels against fate. He is four years old and suddenly feels invested with a misssion: to take over. His father left behind him a mass of unfinished projects, work in progress.
Following in his father's footsteps will be his way of taking revenge for an unjust death, of dealing with fate.
He saw his vocation as a duty to be fulfilled, a necessity.
As soon as he replies, his attempt becomes an intimate conversation with the deceased.
The path is given to him in advance, it is his, nobody can challenge him, he is Theo's only son. When he goes to the academy or to La Cambre, it is his father's old friends that he meets as teachers. They reactivate the memory.
Jean Coenen. Sculptor-Founder.
Professor of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts of and in Charleroi 1976-2006.
My first contact with Johan Baudard dates back some fifty years.
At that time I was attending Rik Poot's classes at La Cambre at the same time as Johan's father. We also worked at the National Bronze Foundry in Brussels.
A dramatic car accident put an end to our friendship, leaving little Johan fatherless.
I met Johan again about twenty years later as a foundry worker at the Pakesoft Foundry near Aalst...
Delors Johan set up his own foundry not far from Mons.
I was thus able to entrust him with both of my sculptures to be cast to my complete satisfaction.
I was able to regularly follow the evolution of his own work and thus discover the birth of a sculptor and the concordance between the evolution and maturation of man and his work.
Thus, at the age of fifty, Johan's work expresses itself fully and testifies to an accomplishment in concomitance between the man and his work.
The meeting of forged metal and corten steel and the mastery acquired will be in the future for Johan the tools of a personal sculptural writing.
I wish Johan to be able to continue his quest for the absolute both as a human being and as a sculptor.
May the future be good for him.
Le 12-07-2019 in Merbes le Château.