• JAN 23 to MAY 26
    Group Exhibition
    Spontaneity: A Chosen Path


    • Group Exhibition
    • Contemporary
    • Emerging Artists

    Dates and Opening hours

    JAN 23 to MAY 26, 2013

    Event Location

    Cobra Museum

    Sandbergplein 1

    View website


    • Asger Jorn
    • Belgians Joseph Noiret
    • Christian Dotremont
    • Constant Dullaart
    • Corneille
    • Dutchmen Karel Appel


    In November, 1948, the Dane Asger Jorn, Belgians Joseph Noiret and Christian Dotremont, and the Dutchmen Karel Appel, Corneille and Constant all signed a declaration they had themselves composed. With it, the establishment of Cobra became reality. The six artists spoke out against an intellectual approach in their new practice of art and on behalf of a simple principle of ‘Doing’. ‘Spontaneous creation’ from the material itself, as well as working together, were important objectives. The joy of total freedom and spontaneity had to offer a counterweight to the nightmare of war.
    In an attempt to liberate themselves from classical, bourgeois or otherwise suffocating aesthetics, as well as moral traditions and pretensions, the Cobra artists found inspiration in children’s drawings, prehistoric artefacts, non-western artistic expressions, cartoons and other manifestations of folk culture. Today, many associate Cobra with spontaneously painted, highly colourful canvases. It was this spontaneity that was initially so maligned, so that it would be decades before Cobra became anchored in the history of European art.
    In this presentation created by curator Hilde de Bruijne of the Cobra Museum collection, including works by Constant, Asger Jorn, Corneille and Karel Appel, the issue of ‘spontaneous creation’, which was so crucial for the Cobra artists, is central. The artists were aware that ‘creating as spontaneously as a child’ was in fact impossible. Their quest for spontaneity was a consciously chosen attitude, one that can even be seen as a strategy. They were driven to it by their deep desire to establish something new and different in place of the old established order.


    In the Beginning Was the Image
    The relationship between text and image played a role for Cobra from the moment it was founded. There were of course poets among the members. Visual artists made drawings to accompany poems and the poets wrote texts for the visual work. Hugo Claus and especially Lucebert had double talents, devoted both to poetry and painting. Corneille also wrote both poems and prose.
    The need for this collaboration and the interest in personal handwriting as a pictorial element in a composition were particularly strong in Belgium. It was Christian Dotremont who came up with the term, peinture-mots, and he sometimes created these ‘painting words’ together with Pierre Alechinsky and Asger Jorn.
    The unconventional (collaborative) working method and combining text with image were perfectly suited to Cobra and evolved in part from the theories of Asger Jorn, who had been conscious of the visual and material qualities of letters and symbols even before he met Christian Dotremont. Back in 1944, Jorn wrote that writing and visual expression were essentially the same thing. He reversed the traditional idea that the story came fi rst, followed by the image. In Scandinavian mythology and prehistory, he saw how pictorial motifs had lasted for centuries, while the stories that accompanied them continued to change.

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