The Imaginative World of Janec van Veen

Here is the introduction to our audio-guide for Fabulous Beasts:

This castle is full of magical creatures. Look around and you will see them everywhere; on the arms of chairs, on fireplaces, on the feet of bookcases, on bannisters and on walls….

For this Fabulous Beasts exhibition, Janec and I have collaborated on the theme of all things animal, each in our own individual style. We hope the work will delight you, entertain you and intrigue you. Perhaps some will disturb you. Look closely and enter the world of our imaginations…

Janec’s wonderful work is like no other! Here are three examples with his audio notes to each piece:

Liobam (Ovis leo) is inspired by one of my favourite Margaret Atwood books; Oryx and Crake. In this book, set in a dystopian future, most of humankind have been wiped out, and the people that are left share the planet with strange genetically spliced hybrid animals, Liobam being one of them. Atwood writes:

“The lion-sheep splice was commissioned by the Lion Isaiahists in order to force the advent of the Peaceable Kingdom. They’d reasoned that the only way to fulfil the lion/lamb friendship prophecy without the first eating the second would be to meld the two of them together. But the result hadn’t been strictly vegetarian.”

I loved this image so much that I wanted to create a Liobam myself and this is the result. It is made from a Mouflon ram (thought to be the ancestor of all modern domesticated sheep) and a fabricated Lion’s jaw.

Liobam, in the castle hall, under a whip hanger

Playing God (Hippocampus marina)
This magical creature is creating his own creature to play with – Playing God in a way.
The phrase Playing God is attributed to the novel Frankenstein, in which the obsessed scientist digs up corpses in order to assemble a living being from body parts.

Some people say that I Play God when I splice creatures together and that it’s unnatural and disrespectful to the animals. But if an animal is dead already, how can I disrespect it?
You have to have a thick skin to be a taxidermist. Pun intended.

Whenever I finish creating a fabulous beast I also give it a latin name – one that is comprised of a mix of Latin names of two of the species included in the sculpture.
This one is particularly pleasing as hippocampus means ‘a mythical sea monster on which the sea-gods rode’ and marina means ‘of the sea.’ It fits in perfectly with this marine- themed room.

It is also interesting to note that when people began to dissect brains they found this little part inside that looked a bit like a seahorse, and called it the hippocampus. As a result we all have a mythical sea monster inside our heads.

Flight of Fancy (Rattus ulysses)

The variety of forms and colours in nature never ceases to amaze me.
Like a balloon seller this rat offers his beautiful bouquet of butterflies, and anthropomorphically, questions the nature of desire.


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