Klaas Rommelaere: Johnny (Edition of 500 copies)
In 2021, Belgian artist Klaas Rommelaere (b. 1986) saw Adam Curtis’ documentary Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World. Using found footage, Curtis examines the power structures that shape our world. He touches on themes such as individualism versus collectivism, conspiracy theories, American imperialism, the history of China and artificial intelligence.
The nihilism Rommelaere felt reminded him of Mike Leigh’s award-winning 1993 film Naked, in which the intellectual but dominant and violent twenty-something Johnny wanders through gloomy post-Thatcherian London and shares his dark world view with anyone who will listen.
Rommelaere incorporates both “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and “Naked” in his new series Johnny, taking screen shots from both films and printing them on textile; one series on cotton and one on velour. In addition to the dark message of both films, Rommelaere also displays his personal images of doom. For example, he has a panicky fear of snakes – a symbol that recurs frequently in this series – and for a period he was afraid of buildings collapsing, a fear he retained from a trip to Tokyo, where earthquakes regularly occur.
Although he does not want to look away from the pain of the world, he instead places something in return: comfort and beauty. An image from a dance performance by Rosas, for example. Or nature in the form of the orchids in his studio. Yoga too. A focus on human anatomy, which stands for vitality. Rommelaere embroiders ‘Chaos’ on several of his new works, as well as ‘react’, ‘reload’, ‘recharge’. And so the Johnny series becomes his highly personal attempt to create order out of chaos.