Juul Kraijer | Drawings and Photographs

22 October  - 19 November, 2016


Vadehra Art Gallery is pleased to host a solo exhibition of Juul Kraijer in New Delhi which brings together some of her recent works in the medium of photography and drawing. In her photographs Juul extracts what she calls a ‘lasting image’ from the very painstakingly constructed staged situations in her photographs. Several photographs have taken her days to make, the process involving diverse experiments with the viscosity of glycerin to finding out what a specific kind of beetles eat and how to persuade them to stay on a human face. For the artist it is a challenge to create a transcendent image with the limited ingredients of reality. A photographic image suggests being a documentation of reality and Juul stretches this property of the medium to the limit by creating situations that border on the impossible. The tension thus created is fully explored, for example the series of photographs inspired by the amazing body of a young female contortionist and another series involving a nest of 11 writhing baby boa constrictors.

In drawings, Juul works with a rather different strategy. These works are processual and allow for the constant adjustment of all the elements of the image, many of which remain at least partly visible. On the other hand her photographs are choreographed as far as possible, after the exposure there is little room for adjustments. There are similarities as well. One of the first and an obvious similarity one can ascertain is the color choice – using mostly black and white her drawings and photographs exude a simplicity and charm unique to them. This basic formal limitation creates in her work simultaneously a number of possibilities through associations and memory. She makes a strong case for fusing the known and traditional iconography with elements of the unknown, strange and complex, making the experience of her work unsettling.

In every work the face of her protagonist presents a calmness, which the artist chooses to interlay with the primal fear of reptiles and insects and the two intersect to create surprise and awe. The experience evoked by the sublime quality of the artwork is also rooted in the sensorial and the physical aspects of the images which are depicted. In this way her works operate between the constructs of horror and beauty as much as they do between the binaries of the real and the imagined.

Juul Kraijer is a Dutch artist whose principal mediums are drawing and photography. Her meticulous, exploratory methods have yielded an authentic, consistent oeuvre that also includes several sculptures and videos. Her works share an emblemata-like concision, showing no more than what is strictly necessary. In each image, the figure looms out of an undefined background. Definition of time is absent as well. No hairstyles or dress belonging to any specific period are shown, no hint of a narrative is present. The postures and facial expressions are deliberately restrained and intensely concentrated. They seem to have been adopted for eternity. Faces and bodies are a vehicle for meaning rather than portrayals of individuals. The images elude traditional iconography. In its place, use is made of physical sensations granting access to the inner mind. Juul Kraijer's drawings in charcoal or crayon seem to be depictions not of people but of states of mind. Using contour lines more than building volume by shading, she creates diaphanous figures suspended upon blank paper, with traces of phantom limbs and earlier incarnations left behind as evidence of the artist’s role as choreographer of the image. Drawing from archetypical imagery in Greek and Indian mythology and other traditions, Kraijer creates her own language of metaphors. Combining the human and the animal and plant worlds, her images capture a moment of mutation or metamorphosis as a body blends into a tree or appears to disintegrate into a flock of birds.

In recent years Kraijer has concentrated on making photographs.  While the hybrid female protagonist in Kraijer's drawn oeuvre is imaginary, photography of course necessitated the posing of a real human being. Nevertheless the role Kraijer's French model plays in the photographs is just as neutral and versatile as the one played by her counterpart in the drawings. The relationship of trust established between Kraijer and her model resulted in extraordinary posing sessions with snakes, scorpions and insects. In particular the portraits in which she incorporates animals serve to displace the model and subvert the traditional hierarchies between human and animal, model and accessory. In a situation that would normally arouse anxiety, the model preserves a stillness and grace reminiscent of Renaissance portraiture, further evoking a sense of an otherworldly, dream-like space through real encounters that border on the surreal. Moreover, the stark images resist any specific time or context, conveying a sense of the eternal.

Juul has been visiting India since 1997 regularly and is married to fellow artist Aji V.N. Her works are in many important collections internationally such as the MoMA New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA, Helsinki; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf; Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania; Gemeentemuseum Den Haag; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Huis Marseille Museum voor Fotografie, Amsterdam; Teylers Museum, Haarlem; Drents Museum, Assen; Stedelijk Museum Schiedam; Museum Het Domein, Sittard; Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden; Museum Overholland, The Netherlands and in many private and company collections in Europe, the U.S.A. and India.

Selected exhibitions include Intrigantes Incertitudes, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Saint-Etienne, France, Curated by Lorand Hegyi (cat.), 2016; Photography Extended III, Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, Curated by Ruud van Empel en Nelly Voorhuis (cat.), 2016; For your eyes only. Eine Privatsammlung zwischen Manierismus und Surrealismus, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland, 2014; De Herontdekking van de Wereld, Huis Marseille Museum voor Fotografie, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Curated by Nanda van den Berg (cat.), 2013; Solo Exhibition at Drents Museum & CBK Drenthe, Assen, The Netherlands, 2015; OFF THE RECORD : Meditations on the Photographic Image, Group Show, Curated by Vidya Shivadas, Vadehra Art Gallery, 2015; Impulses in Drawing, Group Show, Curated by Shivangi Singh, Vadehra Art Gallery, 2015; Solo Exhibitions atKunsthalle Giessen, Germany, 2014; Galleria Monica De Cardenas, Zuoz, Switzerland, 2014; POROUS. Ruby Chisthi, Priyanka Choudhary, Juul Kraijer and Rakhi Peswani, Vadehra Art Gallery, 2012; Solo Exhibition, Vadehra Art Gallery, 2010; Solo Exhibitions at Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Amstelveen, The Netherlands, 2009; Kewenig Galerie, Cologne, Germany, 2008 among others.