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We are most aware of life when life is most precarious, when one
is faced with hunger, death, catastrophe, or illness. These moments
heighten our appreciation of the fragility of living. Death, on the
other hand, can be characterised as an
absence of tensions. It is
possible in the mind to animate things that are actually dead; just
as one can sense the death of spirit in things that are alive.

Artistically, there is a thin line between this balance, and a very delicate adjustment on the part of the artist creates an awareness of life or death.In the same way we are most aware of life in sculpture when thatlife is tenuous or ambiguous. In sculpture lifelessness results froman absence of tension. The materials of sculpture are inert, so anyportrayal of life in sculpture must depend upon those tensionswhich we associate with living matter. Life in a work of art dependsupon the artist's ability to create a fine balance between tensionand inertness.

And so that is how we come to focus our attention on the essentials
of Nathanael Neujean's work. For his sculptures deal not only with
physical balance but emotional balance, and therefore display life to us at that precarious moment when life is at its zenith.
Neujean's figures are all afraid; they expect something that is un-
pleasant. They express not so much a movement
but a reflex, a form of defense. Their relationship is never a dialogue: there is always something between them, an obstacle or barrier which maybe invisible or may be oppressively tangible.
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In his sculptures, Neujean often shows us balance as the moment
before falling, Or the moment between attachment and detachment.
It is the obvious concern of any artist working with a material
which is under the influence of gravity. But Neujean is not interested in merely a precarious

physical situation; the moment between
attachment and detachment becomes Neujean's underlying theme.
His sculptures explore the meanings of being bound and being free.

In art, as in life, the question of freedom inevitably raises fears.

The artist wants to be both free and attached, a unique individual as
well as a part of an accepted group. A unique artist can feel lonely
and isolated; but to be part of the community means anonymity
and loss of identity. To have emotional resolution and balance the
artist must be aware of the degree to which he is dependent and
the degree to which he is free, the degree to which he is traditional
or innovative.

Neujean choses to portray the modern artist's dilemma in what
at first seems to be the standard classical form of the nude human
figure. In this he is following the long-standing goal of figure sculpture
which has always been to show the ideals or the
concerns of a particular age. Neujean's modernism lies in both his disregard for fashion - which today must be considered a radical rather than a conservative choice - and his unique ability to convey contemporary anxieties and tragedies without resorting to the conventional solution of arbitrary «modern» distortion of the figure.Absolute balance can be created by symmetry, as it frequently is in ancient sculpture, or equivalent balance can be created on a visual scale where one large object is equal to two or more small ones.
When the function of sculpture was not to provide a magic home
for the dead but to commemorate the beauty of the living, a person
both physically and spiritually balanced, the form of sculpture changed. In the Polykle it an types of the fifth century B.C, the athlete
suggesting a living, potentially moving being, and a model for emulation. Asymmetry presents so convincing an impression of life that one neglects to notice how abstract and ideal Polykle it an sculpture is. It follows, then, that in their passion for lifelike, bronze was favored over marble in ancientGreece since it allows a more complex Contrapposto. Michel Angelo's Prisoners (the «Bound Slaves» for the tomb ofJulius II) show imprisonment, man bound by his physical nature.Just as the spirit is held in thrall by the body, so Michel Angelo's figures struggle to free themselves from the block of stone they are made of. In these figures by Michelangelo, pathos in the Hellenistic sense is revided with the nude as the vehicle for strong emotions; they are not in a state of balance between freedom and bondage.

Or balance can be created as Neujean often does within a
grouping where various parts of the composition balance each
other. However, to represent life, balance must be a state of tension
between movement and stasis, between being free or being stable.
The a figure of ancient Egyptian sculpture represents a man or
woman neither live nor dead, but waiting in death for re-enlivening
energy, a figure in suspended animation, about to become alive. To
show this state of being, the artistic form given it is one of symmetry,
a form perceived as un life like because of the asymmetry of nature.
The «striding» pose with one foot extended in front of the other,
the soles of both feet flat on the ground, is also neither alive nor
dead, neither walking nor standing still. The ka figure is funerary
sculpture, to be buried in the tomb as a residence of the a (a
spiritual double) which can enter and leave at will while the figure
waits for rebirth. The material chosen for the most august figures
such as the pharaoh are the hardest they could find - diorite and
granite, meant to last for eternity.

In Neujean's sculpture the life like asymmetrical bronze nude in
complex Contrapposto is used to express a wide range of statements
about contemporary physical and emotional imprisonment. These
are statements about the loss of liberty or the striving for liberty
that concern modern man: the contractual and moral binding of
family relationships, imprisonment and legal bindings by the state,
and the artist's subservience to his materials and his
discipline. Neujean deals with universal problems on an intimate level, whatever the scale of his works.

In a subtle use of physical balance he portrays the fragile quality
of the psychological balance between a mother and her daughter:
a mother gives her daughter physical support, allowing her daughter
to relax. A wife holds her husband by his

feet, anchoring him to the house. A woman is bound by her unborn child as if weighed down by a rock, flattened to the floor. A widow in the act of grasping her husband's corpse seas herself as separate from him, free again; she sees in his tangible corpse her own intangible life.

Two figures at the moment of separation find themselves closer
together than ever before, and their faces merge. Widows appear 

in a state of grace, elongated and freed from their physical roles as
wives. A survivor has escaped death but is bewildered to find
herself alone. The two figures in “L'Epreuve” help each other in a
most ambiguous relationship: is he pulling him up, or is the other
pulling him down? Does one lose something in the

process of helping? In the same way many of Neujean's sculptures do not know their place. They are like figures becoming sculptures or like figures refusing to be sculptures, alternately stepping on and off their pedestals.

Only their heads reveal their individuality and move searchingly in different directions.
In “Le Jugement” the judges are people, but the person being judged becomes an object, passive and inert. Prisoners sit in slotted boxes like poultry in cages, crouching in cramped spaces.

Le Silence is an image of a bound man. This concept is important to Neujean because it is related to censorship and loss of artistic freedom. Even though the figure in the sculpture is silenced his mind can be read: he expresses his emotions through silence. Preventing speech has not

prevented expression. His silent nude figure expresses dissipated power, ruined health, yet surviving dignity.

His face, which is the normal vehicle of expression is masked.

Nudity itself is a form of freedom, as can be seen in his carefree Zazie, though complicated by her nervous self-consciousness. She is defiantly free but carefully avoids a glance; her seeming to withhold something behind her back suggests promises withheld.

The mind of “Le Prophète” is really free: it soars into the future. But of all Neujean's sculptures it is one of the least defined; his body is immersed in its material block but his mind projects. The prophet looks up and light bathes his face.

On the other hand, “Le Prêtre” wears a hat which casts a shadow on his face. And like the kind of doll which rocks on its round base he is tiltable and will bounce back. Another kind of freedom is the freedom of children, cared-for and carefree, and children are noticeably absent from Neujean's work except as infants. But one does appear in a most unexpected place, however, emerging from the breast of the painter

Jean-Jacques Gaillard. In this portrait sculpture Neujean has cast the back of a real chair, a chair with a grill, and this grill is behind Gailliard,suggesting that the painter is a freed person. A chair is a form of sculpture, a form of art, and Gailliard is presented beyond art, on this side of the chair. He is not beyond physicality, however, because he is quite weighed down by clothes, even overdressed, sensitive to cold, huddling to protect himself as if he were incapable of dealing with the physical world. In contrast, Gailliard's strange resemblance to the lion mask carved on the chair suggests an alter-ego fierceness inside him. And from his breast a child emerges: welling from his inner self is the child-like curiosity that is an attribute of an artist.


The character of an intriguing person has been delineated in the balance or tension between contradictory traits:
one cannot be an artist without maturity and discipline, nor can one be an artist without the freshness and freedom of a child.
As a twentieth century sculptor Nathanael Neujean has consistently dealt with the classic form of sculpture -the human figure. For him it is both a test and a discipline self-imposed, deliberately placing himself in competition with sculptors of the thousands of years of the past. This takes courage and discipline, but it is only through discipline, paradoxically, that the artist is free, and that the imagination is free. Neujean knows that to be really free the artist must respect the chains that bind him. And that freedom is possible only for those who have been bound.
Neujean's unswerving, deeply-felt exploration of the human condition and his ability to convey a contemporary humanist point of view have placed him among the masters of the human figure.

Dr Karl LUNDE 

“Why are we currently witnessing the decline of contemporary art, a bewilderment of artistic creation, detached from human relations, advocating a taste for nothingness, scandal, provocation?”

Nat Neujean, 2009, Brussels.

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