The Human Hunt

The hunt has long featured as a theme in art. Just as there are fox hunts, witch hunts, trophy hunts, Jan Jüngling depicts the human hunt in his new series. Thus, he takes the long standing genre of the hunt and subverts it, taking the human being out of the heroic central stance and placing us in the position of the prey.

Jüngling uses a triangular composition in these works, as a nod to the very classical form in which we know the hunt in art. This traditional composition gives him a framework in which to depict the same scene, with infinite variation. By viewing the collection in series, a myriad of individuals hunted in all possible circumstances, we are faced with essence of the hunt. As with his other series, Jüngling uses repetition here to get at the universality of the human experience.

The triangular form also signifies the narrowing of space in which the hunted human being seeks to escape. The converging lines of the triangle trap the hunted person into an ever-narrowing range of paths. This makes these images profoundly uncomfortable to look at, claustrophobic and terrifying. The power of this form comes from familiarity. We are all racing into the converging point of the triangle, our possibilities narrowing, the paths we could take diminishing, until our lives reach the inevitable sharp convergence of death.

There is also a reflection of the trajectory society has taken in recent history in the human hunt. The wide open central space of the triangle mirrors the widening of potential and possibility that we have seen in the liberalisation of society, in the increase in freedoms and the opening up of the world. Now, we see the whittling away of this freedom, as we travel again towards a more inwards, narrower society. As the hunted person races down an ever-narrower path chased by pursuers, so society is being herded into narrow-mindedness and a narrowing of freedoms. Thus the triangle shows the relationship between egalitarianism and authoritarianism, extended over time, and the human being as a point moving across the plain between these spaces.

As a master of space and movement in his images, Jüngling leads the eye from the trajectory of the hunted figure, to the converging of the pursuers who are sometimes seen and sometimes invisible. This gives the works a sense of drama, raising the blood pressure and making the heart race, so the viewer can almost feel one’s own feet pounding the ground and can almost hear the approaching footsteps coming up from behind. The motion carries the viewer’s attention within each image, and then on to the next scene of the hunt, creating a cumulative sense of rushing onwards throughout the series. In this, this series is similar to Jüngling’s images of horses in motion, and the movement of dance. In all cases, the artists’ unique talent at capturing motion within a still canvass is what gives the work such verisimilitude.

This collection builds upon the artist’s narrative of the human condition, as well building upon his exploration of form and structure. Thus Jan Jüngling’s work is both visually stunning, and existentially moving.

© Jakub Kavan