FOR A REFLECTION
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 womans
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 Kraijers
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 womans
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 Ð 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 Kraijers
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
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.
translated by Beverley Jackson