A sunset painted with explosive ingredients such as saltpetre and sulphur. In the work The Black Sun Sets, the aggressive side of darkness is emphasised. However, for visual artist Pieter Laurens Mol (1946, Breda), the colour black and darkness represent much more than death and destruction. Since his youth, he has been fascinated by the symbolic and scientific meanings of darkness, as they appear in melancholy or astronomy for instance. He links black holes to the melancholy connotations of the Spanish words confusión and pesimismo. The letter 'o's in the text drawing Studie Voor Zwarte Gaten have been cut out. The conceptual gravitational pull is so great that the 'o's are drawn into a black hole. The work demonstrates the pronounced poetic and lyrical side of Mol's art.
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From deepest black to the birth of colour
Night Flight is divided into six thematic ensembles with names such as 'Nachtbraker', (Night Owl), 'Hellevaart' (Descent into Hell) and 'Stille Smart' (Silent Sorrow). In the exhibition, you witness the destructive nature as well as the beauty of darkness. The final ensemble, entitled 'Geboorte van de Kleur' (Birth of Colour) concerns the rebirth that follows darkness. For the work The Total Amount, Mol has filled dozens of trays with pure pigments: 'To immerse your eyes into this pure powder from nature feels like an embrace, a wonderfully intimate and intense experience'. High above the trays full of colour a photo negative of the artist hangs from the wall. Dangling helplessly from a crane, the solitary painter surveys all the beautiful material at his disposal with a single glance. The idea that he can give birth to beauty as soon as he starts working with it is hopeful. For Mol, this is a telling work in the exhibition. He examines the way in which humankind is part of something greater and how we can relate to this.
Old and new sources
Besides astronomy, Mol is inspired by alchemy, natural sciences, mythology, national history and ancient art. On this subject, he says: 'An ancient Egyptian statue can evoke the same emotion as a piece made just minutes ago. The only real time is the now and to this I bring elements from the past and the future.' The ways in which he expresses himself are as diverse as his sources. He might create installations, sculptures or objects. Among the works, many of which have never been on display before, we also see photographs, paintings, drawings and graphical pieces.
Mol’s career began in his birthplace Breda. From there, he became one of the most prominent artists of his generation. He is one of the few artists of his age to have started working abroad. Over the past fifty years, his work has been exhibited at leading institutions worldwide, including the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Kunsthalle Basel, Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève, Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Museum of Modern Art in New York and Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne. In addition, Mol's work features in various public and private collections.
Discover Breda through the eyes of Pieter Laurens Mol
For Mol, the history of North Brabant and artists from this region are a source of inspiration. The city was a source of inspiration, especially in the early days of his artistic career. During the Night Flight exhibition, this connection with the city will be emphasized. Breda's Grote Kerk will be displaying work by Mol, in which the church plays a prominent role, for example. An exhibition developed in collaboration with the KOP Foundation can be visited in the city during the exhibition. Four young artists have been invited to create new work for the public space inspired by Mol's oeuvre and the theme of Night Flight
A publication offering a renewed insight into Mol’s work is also available. Six chapters each illuminate a sub-area of the themes in his work. A wide selection of visual material and essays by authors from various disciplines provide insights into Mol's work from the 1960s to the present. The book, published in collaboration with W-Books, is available in the museum shop.
Public programme for young people and young artists
His inquisitive attitude and traditional working methods make Mol an example for the current generation of artists. For this reason, Stedelijk Museum Breda is developing a public programme for young artists, including inspiration sessions and workshops. For this, the museum is working together with the St. Joost School of Art & Design, Master Institute of Visual Cultures and Inversie Talenthub. In addition, in collaboration with skate park Pier15® and educational institution Curio scala, the museum is organising a public programme for young people aged between 15 and 25. Among other things, they will be creating an art magazine and working with artist Yasser Ballemans at Pier15®. The results of these programmes will be on display in the museum.
The exhibition Night Flight and all related activities were realised thanks to support from Fonds 21, Gemeente Breda and everyone who loaned works and in cooperation with St. Joost School of Art & Design, Master Institute of Visual Cultures, Inversion Talent Hub, KOP Foundation, Curio scala, Pier15®, Grote Kerk Breda and Sint-Joostkapel.
Stedelijk Museum Breda won the Agnes van den Brandeler Museumaward 2021 with exhibition Night Flight.
Credits main image: Nature Morte, Pieter Laurens Mol, 2004 - 2005
Pieter Laurens Mol’s inspiration for Nature Morte (Canary in the Coal Mine) 2004 - 2005
Visual artist Pieter Laurens Mol’s work can be interpreted in many ways. One interpretation of Nature Morte relates to the expression 'canary in a coal mine' - a state of alarm, the urgency of immediate danger and the need to intervene before it is too late.
In the past, miners' lives depended on observing the canary’s wellbeing: if the air quality in the mine was too low, the canary would fall from its perch. This touches on a topical subject: mining in particular and the climate issue as a whole.
Nature Morte is part of the exhibition Night Flight. During your visit, you can also see that this work is a 'trickster', it works like a trompe-l'oeil because the bird is depicted at its actual size. This also makes the effect more intense and the message more urgent.