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On the drawings of Juul Kraijer

Juul Kraijer (1970) draws oracular beings originating in an antediluvian realm where people blend just as naturally with animals as with the landscape. They even blend with the light.
Here the tall, squatting figure of a woman looms up before us, nude, but veiled by ribbons of clouds, or possibly of breath. She is surrounded by vapours, and herself exudes vapour, neither nymph nor hazy apparition, but a steaming physical presence. Kraijer has drawn her with charcoal and it seems that not only that charred substance but also the wood from which it derives and the tree, once rooted in the earth, to which that wood belonged have been immortalised in the woman
s coal-black contours and her entire coal-black body — despite its steaming whiteness. Luminous whiteness, in fact. She combines the two qualities, being somehow black and white at the same time.
Like virtually all Kraijer
s hybrid figures, this woman withdraws from the attention of others, and thus evades our gaze. Although she is posing for us, or is in any case turned frontally towards us, she remains as unapproachable as a goddess. Eyes half-closed, she turns her attention inward. She is immersed in a process of metamorphosis, on the dividing-line between body and landscape, body and spirit — the epitome of concentration. And in this sense she is akin to most of the serene beings that Kraijer has been conjuring up for over ten years.
The artist calls into being fabulous creatures, phantom beings, gods and demigods, who present us with riddles that can never be completely unravelled. There is also something deceptive about their exemplary appearance, as is conveyed by the mirror-like snake with the face of a young woman. The sinuous body frames her profile, as in a cameo. The snake has curled itself into an oval, becoming both jewel and setting, but a setting for nothing more or less than the woman
s own reflection. Kraijer herself describes this behaviour in harsher terms, noting that her recent figures are frequently in a state of utter self-absorption.
All you can say with certainty is that the elegant but inscrutable creatures that populate her oeuvre, that entire exotic company of introverted creatures, embody the very faculty of concentration. It is as if they are silently attuned to a higher state of being, beyond human reason. The white of the drawing paper that surrounds them is their sanctuary — and they seem to be stretching out quite deliberately to that blank universe, in a sensual abandonment to the universe and the cosmos, which — whether it is steaming or whirling is endlessly expanding and contracting.
In this characteristically Kraijerian sphere of influence, where ribbons of cloud can equally be ribbons of breath, the difference between the outside world and the inner world, between self and everything outside and alien to self, dissolves: self-consciousness, rapt in supreme concentration, evaporates. This paradox is characteristic of Kraijer
s figures: their senses are heightened and disengaged at the same time. Eyes are closed or half-closed, faces are often averted from the viewers gaze. But the eye may also suddenly look aside with the darting movement of a little fish, as in the woman with the double iris, the double pupil. And in another figure the ear burgeons into multiple ears, covering the skull: nothing but hearing, the image suggests. These eyes and ears must discern very rarefied sounds and images, too rarefied for us. Thanks to Kraijers extraordinary gift for drawing, some degree of the sensitivity of her hybrids is imparted to us. They seduce us into a meticulous mode of observation, but their sensual ambiguity affects us too. Though these figures may speak in many tongues, fiery ones such as those of the woman who sticks out dozens of tongues at the same time over her entire body, they are nonetheless utterly silent, divulging nothing.

Wilma Sütö


translated by Beverley Jackson