“Depouiller – To Strip Off” NG Art Gallery 2008


“Depouiller-to strip off” NG Art Gallery February 2009

“The corpulent, larger than life figures that feature in his paintings draw upon some of these characters, but this time the artist chooses to take off their clothes in order to remove any signs of social standing. Like the Emperor’s New Clothes, he reveals that in our birthday suits – denied a business tie, preacher’s collar or military cap or uniform – we are all the same, naked and vulnerable underneath. ‘Depouiller’ translates as ‘to strip off’, but according to Lobbecke it’s meaning is more subtle in French, suggesting to peel away a facade and unveil what lies beneath the surface. Acting almost as an inverse mirror to his cartoons, he wants to reveal the underbelly of powerful public personas.

The characters that fill his big, bold artworks are heavyweights – naked anonymous men who fill the picture frame with bulging torsos and fleshy limbs. They are not figures to be admired nor are they figures to be mocked. They also possess the dimension of the ‘everyman’, revealing the universal truth of our human nature when we are stripped bare. The works are a rebellion against the idealized image of the classic nude in art, with its contemporary version probably paralleled in women’s magazines – largely female figures with perfectly symmetrical proportions.artists who have taken a more realistic view of the human body, from the full-figured women of Peter Paul Rubens in the seventeenth century to the more recent meaty nudes of Lucien Freud.

Lobbecke’s large ‘in your face’ bodies can at times appear like caricatures of Michelin men or sumo wrestlers. Their extreme forms can sometimes provoke strong and varied reactions in the viewer – some may see them as grotesque and funny, others as sad and vulnerable. The sheer uncomfortable size of these men as they lumber or lounge about awkwardly, at times almost bursting out of the picture space, is also an intentional means for Lobbecke to make a statement about the extremes of western consumerism.

Some of our worst characteristics – whether it be sloth, gluttony or greed – can be encouraged by a society that emphasizes constant consumption. Nevertheless, mostly these artworks reinforce our universal condition and that the facades of clothing and other status symbols, such as the car we drive, job we hold or property we own, merely cover up the fact we are all ambling through life struggling with our fundamentally vulnerable and imperfect human nature.”

– Victoria Hynes