The anecdotal method is viewed with scepticism in both art and science because it leads to fallacies and easy generalisations. One isolated piece of evidence contradicts the scientific method that investigates in breadth; it is not because your bird is a parakeet that all birds are parakeets.
In art, anecdotalism stands for navel-gazing, for the glorification of one’s own experience, which is the opposite of universality or the possibility of making abstraction of something so that one thing can stand for another or the pure form can suffice to transcend all that is primary. Poetry, music and abstract art speak to us in our most deeply rooted and eroded emotions that no longer refer to the specific but to the general, it is the language we feel but
do not understand.
There is perhaps no artist who uses the anecdotal method more than John van Oers. Small and large autobiographical events are time and again the reason for visual processing. Drawn diary fragments become a storyboard for sculptures that seem unassuming and feather-light. But what we see are no narrative narratives or family chronicles; the reasons for these works are cryptically concealed under brightly simplified forms in pure materials such as wood, metal, plaster or bronze. John Van Oers does not tell, he suggests and therein lies the magical transition from the strictly anecdotal to forms we all feel but do not
For the 2019 Installation at Gallery De Wael in Antwerp, John Van Oers used the 13-metre long exhibition wall as a timeline of his own history. 11 time segments divide the wall into periods of 5 years and thus cover 55 years. He starts in 1965 when his older brother is born and ends in 2020 with a reference to the Brexit saga. In between, a motley collection of futile and momentous moments from the life of John Van Oers are expressed in sculptures, drawings and interventions on the wall itself. Van Oers opts for a rigid structure, a mathematical order consisting of subjectively chosen moments. Here, the anecdotal method passes into an empirical approach that departs from one’s own perception (of oneself) to investigate the general. Thus, the suggested anecdotes become stylised, even abstracted hypotheses. On this wall John Van Oers projects the primal form of a life, just as the flat ground of every city is at once similar and yet unique.
(Bert Dankaert, september 2019)
John van Oers (1967) lives and works in Antwerp (Belgium), Van Oers graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1993.
Next to many projects in public space a selection of exhibitions: Galerie Rossi contemporary in Brussels 2021, Galerie de Waal 15, Antwerp 2019, PARK, Tilburg 2018.