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'Ingetogen als een geisha'
M.Vermeijden over het
werk van Juul Kraijer

The Hydra
a text by the artist

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The Hydra

The eloquence of my drawings I can't match with words. In spite of this, I'm asked so regularly and with such persistence to give a specific explanation, that I don't want to refuse out rightly doing so. I have consciously not chosen a text written by others because of the risk that their interpretation might become canonized by virtue of inclusion in this book. Personally, I shrink back from interpreting my work, considering the fact that the meaning of a drawing is always ambiguous. If it were unambiguous, I would have chosen a more direct form than the poetic-associative one of visual art. Visual art is a good medium for giving sharp definition to that which, due to its not being finite, cannot be captured in language and theory. Interpreting a drawing, as soon as it's done with some certainty, deforms into the dictating of a meaning, whereby one artificially restricts the work, amputating the other possibilities in favour of that single one. With the words that I add to the drawings I will attempt to plant a signpost. Not one that indicates the one and only correct direction, but one pointing to many paths like on a nine-track crossroads, where you never know which path you have already walked or from which path you actually came, and nevertheless get to see acres of beautiful forest.
And keep in mind that an artist whose work is characterized so much by deception will probably not avoid it in her writing either.
The drawings are in no way portrayals of real situations. They are rather embodied frames of mind, literally incarnated by Japanese looking girls. They use the form of the emblem; a concise combined play of elements that bring a metaphor into being which gives the portrayal its significance. The conciseness here is of vital importance. In drawing, it is conciseness and restraint that form the guiding principle, a guiding principle which I don't seem to have chosen, but which appears to be dictated by the drawings themselves. It proves a condicio sine qua non, in its role as opposite, as complementary, as the one statement of a contradiction.

The nature of the restraint

The hint of environment is missing in almost all of the drawings; the figures are surrounded by blank paper. There is no perspective, no background or foreground and hardly any attire, so that definition of time is absent as well. The only time they wear a garment, and I therefore have to show my true colours, it is today's fashion, worn by myself and my friends and therefore neutral and to a certain extent imperceptible by its general distribution.The bodies drawn are naked but neutral. No flesh but a vehicle. They remain within the domain of the spirit. No voluptuous forms, but half-blown ones, hair in a tight knot -loose, luxurious, wavy only if it forms the main character - no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no nails or pubic hair and not even a chair to sit on. A certain plastic illusion-ism characterizing the drawings is immediately undermined by the inherent, abstracting quality of the very 'spiritual' medium, charcoal. The bodies retain the same dimension as the paper. Charcoal on paper verges on the immaterial. It is wafer-thin and scarcely affixes: just like the pattern on a butterfly wing. It decolorizes the things, only registers where the form is not bathed by light or where it is so to a lesser extent, and is therefore an abstraction of reality.The postures are just as reticent and, as far as their choreographies are concerned, related to those of the pictogram. The face often displays itself en profil or en face and the body remains parallel to the surface of the paper: no legs tapering away into the depth, no torso leaning forward, drawn in perspective. There are hardly any gestures, the postures have been robbed of all vitality. No suggestions of animation or a spontaneous expressive gesticulating, but instead an intensely concentrated pose that seems to have been adopted for eternity, because it's the most meaningful one. The motionless-ness of the pose finds a counterpart in the impassivity of the face. At the most, the girls might be slightly coquettish, peering from the corner of their eyes at the effect they are bringing about. The eyebrows are missing because all too soon they betray inner life. Their hybrid Japanese features, closed and monolithic, are strange to me and to the whole Western world and like a screen hide the disorder from view. An all too human identification is made impossible. If anything, they are personage, not person. Individuality is not significant with regard to the role they are allocated: the voicing of the inner mind. As actors they are always conscious of the presence of spectators. Even if they turn away they keep a close eye on them.This reticence seems to me to be necessary: it nurtures a contrast. For every drawing contains a contradiction, a contradiction between the outer motionless ness and the emotion of the inner mind, making the latter stand out more starkly. Turned away, the leading actors cloak themselves in impenetrability and perfect calmness, while they betray themselves. Somewhere on their silent body a metamorphosis takes place, raises one single wave high above a shallow sea.

The ornate nature of the metamorphosis

It is the ornate nature of the metamorphosis that contrasts with the motionless-ness with which the personalities experience it. Volumes speak in a room in which you can hear a pin fall. A bosom becomes a pair of pigeons, vegetation erupts from organs, a body multiplies itself by seven, with plaits entangled. A girl gives birth to a blackbird, hedge-sparrows pierce from vertebra, small trees from veins on hands. A heart is formed from silent fossil tears; a face is doubled, it mutually spies on itself, suspiciously. Because no situation is real, no girl tangible, only existing in her role as incarnation, this unstable morphology is able to manifest itself. The dividing line between the things is no longer unrelenting. The outline of the body loses its absolute character. It alters its form to the most meaningful one. The change, either mutation or mutilation, continues to come into being at the most vulnerable place, there where the form of the body is most advantageous or where resistance is the least. Every girl has her Achilles' heel. The incongruity that takes place on her body is her only means of expression. She does not try to hide this, on the contrary, she turns it to the spectators, offers it to their glances, while she remains unapproachable. The indirect frankness of the change of form unmasks the apparent serenity. Absent or coquettish, always silent and enveloped in concentration, she gives herself over to the metamorphosis.

The many-headed monster

I am limiting myself to this inventory of elements, even though I see that here and there I betray myself in the choice of adjectives, in a manner not dissimilar to the way my protagonists betray themselves. And where they mislead with the roundabout route that they choose for exposing themselves, the artist misleads by concealing herself behind a foreign legion. With regard to both, this happens consciously but not deliberately. And there are more similarities.
Facing my work it appears to me like the Hydra. It shows itself in many faces, which originate from the same maternal body. No matter how many I draw, new ones keep forcing themselves upon me. And all are in principle the same.