His approach: integral naturalism
Frans Krajcberg, Nova Viçosa, Brazil. Photo by Tim Carroll, 1993
The works of Frans Krajcberg have crossed the twentieth century without aging. His message is more relevant than ever. Works and message are so intimately linked that it is difficult to dissociate them. Nature is an open-air workshop where he draws his inspiration. It is also the justification for his role as an artist.
Atypical artist : trained according to the criteria of the time spent at the Beaux-Arts in Stuttgart, he never ceased to break free from all recognized artistic movements. He expresses himself in a very personal way, through untitled and undated works, whose emotional power remains intact.
Protean artist : he has used all media (painting, sculpture, photographs and even the camera…), mixing classical or contemporary disciplines without constraints.
Relentless craftsman: he practiced all the techniques within his reach and was inspired by all traditional or experimental methods.
A pioneer: he affirmed himself in the 1980s / 1990s as one of the fathers of the Anthropocene movement, which gave man a decisive role in planetary balance.
Artist-activist: Until the end of his life, he was an active witness who denounced and raised awareness. For him the Artist is “at the heart of any civilization project, completely and radically”.
After the war, he preferred to flee to Ibiza and Brazil rather than integrate the artistic circles he worked with. In front of nature he developed a great capacity of observation and wonder as well as the desire to testify and act.
Frans Krajcberg, November 2011.
According to Frans Krajcberg, Art is a means to reach us and to convey a message. Thus, to share his “revolt”. Throughout his life he works on forms, relentlessly seeking new modes of expression to fulfill his mission. Footprints, collages, shadows, burnt wood but also photography or camera help him to communicate without borders. He entrusts his works with the role of “shouting” for him.
In the 1960s, in Paris, he became convinced that artistic expression was an exceptional way to defend nature. While abstraction and informal painting were running out of steam, environmental issues were entering the political and societal debate for the first time. Artists like Joseph Beuys and Hans Haacke questioned the role of Art in this period of upheaval. Civilized man has created a world invaded by manufactured objects, tirelessly drawing on nature’s riches. It is time to observe its vulnerability.
At the end of the 1960s, Arte Povera, and Land Art in the 1970s, explored new paths and drew inspiration from raw objects or landscapes. When Arte Povera acts in a provocative spirit to reject Op-art, Frans Krajcberg retains the idea of the movement. The materials that inspire him are not “poor”, on the contrary. Their beauty speaks for itself when it comes to denounce the destruction of nature by man. Unlike Land Art, he does not intervene in the landscape, he chooses natural elements that he transforms to magnify them, while using artistic codes.
Krajcberg, "Racines", ink on paper, 1983 54 x 76 cm.
Frans Krajcberg also differs from the New Realists, a movement founded by Pierre Restany during this pivotal period. Initially, the critic and art historian considered the process of appropriation of nature by Frans Krajcberg as a rather similar approach. The New Realists bring a fresh look on the artificial and manufactured objects (created to meet the needs of urban life) and thus reveal their poetic reality. It is according to him, the only possible way out to renew Contemporary Art.
In 1978 with the painter Sepp Baenderec, they embarked to go down the Rio Negro.
Far from everything, at the heart of the Amazon, they question each other for a long time and confront their point of view on the role of Art and the role of the Artist in our society. The Rio Négro journal tells the story of this journey towards what will be the foundations of Integral Naturalism. For both of them, nature will be from now on in the heart of cultural and artistic issues.
“Amazon’s nature is so powerful that it established itself as a true discipline. Amazon will be the university, the Alma mater, the great school of my perception” declares Pierre Restany.
Frans Krajcberg’s vision is reinforced at his arrival in Brazil. The fragments of Nature are works of Art.
The artist must reveal their beauty to the world to avoid their destruction. This truth is a moral order reminder of our culture. Elements, trees, men, plants or animals, are an inseparable whole.
"The nature of the Amazon calls into question my sensitivity as a modern man. It also questions the scale of traditionally recognized aesthetic and artistic values. Here, we are facing a world of shapes and vibrations, facing a mystery in perpetual movement ...".
Frans Krajcberg in the Amazon, at the scene of deforestation.
From now on and until the end of his life, Frans Krajcberg invites us to look at Nature as a work of art. An inexhaustible source of inspiration which gives him a permanent sense of wonder which he shares with us. “To capture the smallest part of its transience, to show it in its raw beauty or in its movement, depending on the time of day, to watch the sun, wind and water resonate with it ...». First fascinated by the infinite diversity of each piece of raw material, he chooses to give his works the responsibility to "shout" for him: “sometimes I fall into the beautiful. A tree struck by fire can be beautiful, but if you come into its story, it is tragic. I would like my sculptures to scream, but how can I do it? Sometimes I think to myself they have become too beautiful and they no longer shout. Sometimes, the more violent they are, the more they become aesthetic, so I can think death can be beautiful”.
For him, Nature and Art are now inseparable. “I am a man completely tied to nature, of which my survival and my creativity depend on... Nature has given me strength, has given me pleasure to feel, to think, to work. To survive. I was walking in the forest and I discovered an unknown world. I discovered life. Pure life: to be, to change, to continue, to receive light, heat, and humidity. Real life: when I am in nature, I think right , I speak truth , I wonder for real. When I look at it I feel how it moves: he was born, he died, this is life going on. I had built my house in the forest. A wild cat had adopted me. I collected orchids. I surely had the largest collection of orchids in Brazil ”.
The second half of the 20th century gave him time to make artistic tools to carry his message and resound his cry of revolt: “My work is a long love struggle with nature. I could show a fragment of this beauty. I made it. But I can’t repeat this gesture over and over again. How to make this piece of wood mine? How can I express my awareness of it? Where is my participation in this life that includes and exceeds me? Until now, I have not dominated nature. I have learned to work with it”.
The beginning of the 21st century allows him to express himself and to shout with force, using as his only weapon the obvious beauty and the immediate fascination of his works.
Until his death in 2017, he tirelessly created and made resonate his message as an appalled artist, against the destruction of nature, to preserve the planet and to transmit it to future generations.