月光下的恶作剧 - Pranks in the Moonlight
Text in English and Chinese by Love Jönsson, curator, writer. Published at the website of CAFA Art Museum as an introduction to 月光下的恶作剧 - Pranks in The Moonlight, Torsten Jurell´s solo exhibition autumn 2017.
Torsten Jurell has a flair for transforming the venues in which he exhibits into highly evocative settings. The implication of his exhibition "Pranks in the Moonlight" is that a travelling theatre company has installed itself in the museum. The packing crates have been emptied and the props put in place in the darkened auditorium. The actors are in the wings and the audience can take their seats. Or has the performance already begun? The title of the exhibition is open to a multitude of interpretations. That creates a sense of uncertainty. A prank is a trick, a joke, buffoonery; moonlight is the pale nocturnal blush that illuminates the Earth in a way so different from the direct rays of the sun. In Torsten Jurell's own words, "In moonlight everything becomes ambiguous, without necessarily becoming any less true."
In the hands of Torsten Jurell the theatre becomes a metaphor for the world. The theatre - like the world - is a complex system in which places, figures and events are intimately interconnected. The exhibition lets us witness how machinery is set in motion, characters interact and various series of images are linked through recurring motifs. And yet, the contexts and connections are not always obvious. Historical and literary references are linked to aspects of the current public debate and popular culture in a way that eludes easy interpretation. The works have been produced using a raft of different techniques and materials - painting, graphics, photos and videos, ceramics and bronze. The diversity of these media and the way in which they coalesce accentuate the artist's aspiration to be on the move, seeking out new paths. And, by occasionally reworking individual items from his existing oeuvre into forthcoming exhibitions, Torsten Jurell drives home the point that the meanings of his works are constantly open to re-interpretation.
One of central themes suffusing the works Jurell has created during his four decades as a professional artist has been the human form as a vehicle for storytelling. During his years as a student at Valand Art School in Gothenburg, Sweden, (1971-76) the local art scene was strongly influenced by the iconography of social realism: it was the vulnerable groups in society that were the focus of attention. While this tradition may have laid the foundation for certain aspects of Torsten Jurell's own imagery, there is no doubting the fact that his artistic expressions have taken him in more impulsive and unpredictable directions. As a rule, he is more interested in the expressive rather than the realistic. He has shown less concern for reproducing the outward appearance of his models than for creating ambiguous, fictional characters that inhabit the borderlands between reality, legend and myth.
Through his adoption of the theatre motif in his major exhibitions of recent years Torsten Jurell has taken his inveterate exploration of the human form as a player in an ongoing event to a new and deeper level. By using theatre as the unifying element in his exhibitions, he also traces a link between his current production and his early artistic work in the 1970s and 1980s: while studying, he found occasional employment painting scenography for both established and independent theatre companies.
Since the turn of the century Torsten Jurell has divided his time between his home country of Sweden and China. Initially, from 2007 to 2009, he worked in the Suojiacun Art Village on the outskirts of Beijing, but since 2011 he has chosen Jingdezhen as his base. The exhibition at CAFA Art Museum, the most extensive survey of his work to date in China, builds on the success of well received exhibitions in Sweden and Europe in recent years. The mechanical marionette theatre that constitutes the focal point of the presentation has previously formed part of solo exhibitions dedicated to Jurell's work at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg (2014-15) and the Museum of Movement in Stockholm (2016). It was also shown in the major international group exhibition "Ready for the Stage, Act 1" at the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck in Germany (2016-17), conceived and curated to celebrate the centenary of the Dada movement.