Dutch artist Juul Kraijer’s fascinating world of art

by Aditya Joshi

Of Dutch origins, Juul Kraijer was born in Assen in 1970 and attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam and is married to Aji V. N, an Indian artist. 
It would not suffice to call Juul Kraijer an artist and leave it at that as it brings to mind the image of canvas or paper. Her medium extends beyond that. It would be more accurate to define her, if it is absolutely essential to, as a visual artist with a repertoire that extends from hand drawn works using charcoal (as well as chalk, crayon, pastels) on paper, to bronze and ceramic sculptures, photography and video. Even when she utilises many different media, however, in each there exists something all at once recognisable as well as different. Recognisable in that her perspective is present in each of her works and different in that each medium offers something new to the artwork.
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The use of charcoal on paper, Juul’s preferred medium for drawings, instils an element of translucence. Textural depth is achieved in the interplay of boldly drawn lines, intentional smudging and a solid backdrop. The figures are sharply present and yet there is an immateriality to their being as if “a solid form is coming out of its boundary”
In photography, similar effect is achieved but in a perceivably different way. With purposeful use of light and shadows to a pitch black backdrop the object of the picture is emphasised through which it is brought out of its context and into the realm of abstraction. The object then acts as a vessel or canvas for the desired interaction of different elements.
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The composition on some of them is so stunning that they might be mistaken as paintings.
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In sculptures, as well, the subject in focus is the human form. Often the body is host to certain conditions such as thorns prickling out of the skin or many smaller heads emerging out of a larger one.
There is a recurrence of certain imagery in her works. Androgynous figures that are neither distinctly male nor female, existing in a form that leaves behind gender and sex. Expressions of complete inwardness, one of near impassivity to the external. As if staring fixedly into the distance while registering nothing. The neutral posture of the figure suggesting an absence of action or emotion.
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The most striking, however, are the Caligo Memnon; butterflies with eyespots on their wings. They are often seen resting upon the skin of the figure or model.
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Snakes and barn owls are present as well resting around and upon, respectively, the head.
By her own admission, she is guided in her work by the principles of conciseness and restraint. Of restraint, the artworks display only that which is essential. What is absent then is any context which would entangle the mind with conditioned associations. Of conciseness, the artworks only display that which is essential. What is present is then sharpened and brought to the fore.
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As with many artists, life itself is a source of inspiration for Juul. Exposed to the multi-dimensional world of art in her teenage years, she draws much from the variety of styles and approaches and that is reflected in her work which ventures close to many different territories yet abides to none. Classical literature and pre-Columbian sculpture also have some subtle influence on her work.
It is necessary here to mention that awareness of inspiration should not be used as a means to understand or contextualise her work as that would dilute the very essence of it.

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