The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Peter Stauss, Johannes

2009, oil and wax on plywood, 220 x 170 cm

In Stauss' works strange subjects, that are on the verge of morphing into animals, are presented. Their degree of animality varies: some are depicted with a full human body, others have an animal body and show human gestures. Their postures and facial expressions are always more or less similar. They look concerned, exhausted and bored, as if the nature of true life has revealed itself and their hope to fulfill their dreams is vanished into thin air. Recurring themes are the war, in particular the Second World War, but also the dialectic relationship between nature and culture. Peter Stauss' figures convey the subject-matter of the difference between men and animal, culture and nature.

Animals, like dogs and apes first appeared in Peter Stauss' work as helpers. They were presented next to human mobs, beggars, laborers, soldiers and clochards with drooping mouths and eyes. Stauss assimilated these animalistic figures in the background surface of his paintings by the use of thin or accidental-looking stripes of his paint brush. In his later works (like the 'Johannes-piece') the figures and background of the painting are melted into each other in a non hierarchically manner. These paintings are deprived from linear perspective. Somewhere someone is sleeping, in another corner a figure is walking around with an extinct glace on his face, another figure prepares himself to go to war.

In the background we can distinguish the forms and colors of different flags. These flags represent repressed minorities, nationalities, or non-existent states. His figures often carry emblems and flags on their clothes, as you can see on the cap of the central figure. 'Johannes' is part of a series of brown and black colored wax figures on painted plywood. The series can be interpreted as an in-between stage before Stauss starts to make autonomous sculptures out of his animal-figures.

Text: Lisa van Gerven