François Jacob

Echoes

29.06.19 bis 24.08.19

VERNISSAGE: 28.06.2019 | K1 Nacht der Kölner Innenstadt Galerien

DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE

Die Werke des belgischen Malers François Jacob zeigen meist Figuren in einer bühnenartigen Situation, wodurch ein performatives Setting gegeben ist. Auch wirken manche Bilder Jacobs in ihrer abstrahierenden Verschwommenheit tatsächlich wie Filmstills, wie dem Kontinuum des Narrativen entrissene Momentaufnahmen. Das häufige Vorkommen von Masken im Werk François Jacobs, das heißt die Darstellung maskierter Menschen respektive auch Maskierungen der Gesichter durch „Überblenden“, Verschattungen oder auch Verhüllungen evoziert ein Erlebnis des Unheimlichen. „Unheimlich“ erscheint überhaupt als das passendste Wort für die Bilder von François Jacob, denn wir sehen immer wieder Menschen, Figuren, Tiere oder (maskierte) Mischwesen, die sich in dem voyeuristischen Ausgeliefertsein und der zur Handlung zwingenden Situation einer Bühne befinden. Oder sie sind an einem vollkommen unbestimmten, undefinierbaren Ort angesiedelt, an dem sie der Leere, oder vielleicht sogar noch schlimmer: einem unproportional großen Gegenüber ausgeliefert sind. Der Grund der Existenz dieser Gegenüber ist nicht nachvollziehbar; die riesigen Köpfe, Torsi oder Figuren scheinen wie vom Himmel gefallen. Die dargestellten Szenen wirken befremdlich, finster, ungeheuer oder gar gruselig – die Liste der möglichen Synonyme für „unheimlich“ ist lang. Die geheimnisvoll bis mysteriös wirkende Atmosphäre der präsentierten Szenen teilt sich ganz direkt in ihrer vermeintlich unheilvollen Dramatik den Betrachter*innen mit, auch, oder vielleicht auch gerade wegen der meist kleinen oder mittelgroßen Formate der Leinwände, auf denen die surrealen Situationen konzentriert dargestellt werden. Auch das gemalte Licht spielt in den verschiedenen Szenerien eine eminente Rolle, denn es betont noch einmal
besonders stark das bühnenhafte Setting mit all seinen Implikationen, und dramatisiert zugleich die Szenen.
Dass sich das Gefühl des Unheimlichen von der Malerei François Jacobs so gut auf die Rezipienten überträgt, liegt also zum einen an den Sujets, vor allem aber – und nun kommen wir zum zweiten Grund, warum das Attribut „unheimlich“ auf einer anderen semantischen Ebene so gut zu den Bildern von François Jacob passt – nämlich aufgrund der unheimlich guten, da enorm evokativen Verwendung von Farbe. Sie scheint beim Betrachten der Bilder von François Jacob durch ihre geschickten Verläufe und komplementären Kombinationen ein ganzes Spektrum an gemischten Gefühlen auslösen zu können. Einen farblichen „Normalzustand“ gibt es kaum. François Jacob taucht mit den verwendeten Farben die Settings in absonderliche Stimmungen, die dem Unheimlichen alle Ehre machen. Auf die Frage, wie sich der Prozess der Farbfindung vollzieht, wie Jacob zu den „richtigen“ Valeurs in seinen Bildern kommt, die ihren Ausgangspunkt größtenteils in fotografischen Vorlagen aller möglichen Quellen haben, meint der Künstler:
„Each painting starts with digital images and digital treatment of them, in black and white mode. The computer become useless as soon as I think color and begin to paint. The color and the paint are the same body. It is for me a very sensual practice that has to have no other leach than feeling. [...] The composition and the light of the images (photographs) from which I start are always reworked in order to create the right atmosphere and so, to become something new. But the first step is to convert them in black and white mode, in order to get free of the chromatic information of the sources and to start on "mental" colors. Then the choice of the tints is something about a research progress. I make a lot of color samples and tests on small size supports. Trying to reveal the nature of each color and the most relevant alliances. I 've always had the feeling that there is some kind of knowledge (lost or missed) about the color and the pigments. A knowledge I had to seek through an intimate and experimental practice. Because of their own properties, the association of colors induce a net of sensible relations. I just try to listen to these things in order to set a dialogue and a balance serving the image to come.”
François Jacobs Bildern wird immer wieder eine altmeisterliche Ausführung zugeschrieben, und tatsächlich tauchen vor dem geistigen Auge beispielsweise aufgrund der starken Helldunkel-Kontraste, der farblichen Tonalitäten oder der Motive Referenzbilder von Künstlern wie Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas oder auch James Ensor hervor. Aber zugleich sind François Jacobs Bilder absolut zeitgenössisch. Zeitgenössisch sind sie in erster Linie deshalb, weil sie die Menschen in unheimlichen, zwanghaften, skurrilen oder gar bedrohlichen Situationen zeigen. In Anbetracht der gegenwärtigen vielfältigen Herausforderungen, der sich die Menschheit gegenübersieht, wie etwa die zunehmende Globalisierung, Digitalisierung, Automatisierung usw. schafft Jacob zwar zeitenthobene, aber starke Visualisierungen, ohne jemals konkret zu werden. Seine Bilder spiegeln vielmehr im übertragenen Sinn einen gewissen Zeitgeist wider. Der zunehmende Populismus kennt nur noch das verzerrt Unausgewogene, faktisch Haltlose, hetzerisch Diffamierende und ist damit in höchstem Maße unheimlich. Zeitgenössisch sind Jacobs Bilder zum anderen aber auch aufgrund ihrer Farbigkeit, weil sie dazu animiert, an digitale Farbmodifikationen zu denken, die jedes Bild dank Photoshop oder anderer Software im Handumdrehen in einen wie auch immer gearteten Farbraum verfrachten kann. Die Farben sind teils so „überdreht“, dass man meinen könnte, auf der Rückseite der Leinwände seien Farbregler, die zu intensiv benutzt worden sind. Durch überwiegend kleine Formate der Leinwände ist die Farbigkeit jedoch nicht nur gut zu ertragen, sondern zieht die Betrachter*innen fokussiert in ihren Bann. Gerade in Zeiten des „faster, bigger, better“ sind die Größen erfrischend sympathisch. 
François Jacob ist ein Maler von Figuren. Mal sind sie nur schemenhaft angedeutet, mal konkreter definiert. Mal sind sie in surreale Szenen eingebunden, mal vor nebulösem Hintergrund dargestellt. Selten schauen seine Figuren aus dem Bild heraus, noch seltener die Betrachter*innen direkt an. Sie sind mit sich und ihrer Welt beschäftigt, sind versunken und ohne Empathie auf ihr Tun konzentriert. Einer bringt jedoch Licht in die Welt. 

(aus einem Text von Dr. Andreas Beitin, 2019)






In 1912, one of the first French filmmakers, Abel Gance, produced the film Le Masque d’horreur: the story of a young sculptor who attempts to create a mask that would visualize fear and horror as perfectly as possible. Following the advice of a fellow artist to seek inspiration from a living model, the sculptor decides to stand in front of a mirror and model the mask after his own image. After the first unsatisfactory attempts, he decides in the furor of work to swallow poison in order to use his own face distorted in the throes of death as a model for the mask. In creating the perfect—because authentic—mask of horror, the artist ultimately dies.
Various parallels can be drawn from the short, prolog-like summary of the silent film Le Masque d’horreur to the work of the Belgian painter François Jacob: In addition to the formal analogy that, in both cases, we are dealing with the creative work of two artists, an above-average number of Jacob’s paintings depict figures in a stage-like situation, which—as in the film—creates a performative setting. In their abstracting vagueness, some of Jacob’s paintings also seem like film stills, like snapshots wrested from the continuum of the narrative. A further parallel can be seen in the frequent occurrence of masks in François Jacob’s work, that is to say the depiction of masked people or the masking of faces by means of “superimpositions,” shading, or concealing. And finally, the aspect of “horreur” can also be found as another common feature in François Jacob’s pictures, whereby this is more a sublimated form of horror, namely uncanniness. “Uncanny” seems to be the most appropriate word to describe François Jacob’s paintings since, time and again, we see people, figures, animals, or (masked) hybrid creatures in the voyeuristic subjection and situation of a stage that forces them to take action. Or in a completely undefined, indefinable place, where they find themselves at the mercy of emptiness, or perhaps even worse: of a disproportionately large counterpart. The raison d’être of these counterparts is inexplicable; the huge heads, torsos, and figures seem to have appeared from nowhere. Naked women or girls are confronted with monumental heads, while men are juxtaposed with masked giants. The scenes depicted seem disconcerting, gloomy, monstrous, or even eerie—the list of possible synonyms for “uncanny” is long. The enigmatic and mysterious atmosphere of the scenes presented is directly communicated to the viewer in its purportedly sinister drama, also or perhaps precisely because of the for the most part small or medium-sized formats of the canvases on which the surreal situations are depicted in a concentrated manner. The painted light also plays an eminent role in the various scenarios, since it once again places particular emphasis on the stage-like setting with all its implications, and at the same time dramatizes the scenes. In Actrice (2017), for example, one sees an actress in the process of getting changed, presumably behind a stage curtain. If she had been painted a good hundred years earlier by the likes of Edgar Degas, he would have sensually captured her in rapturous pastel tones. Jacob, however, “directs” the merciless voyeuristic light of a spotlight at the actress, so that it is suddenly unclear whether she is actually in front of or behind the stage. The expectations of the viewers are undermined, since one presumably initially assumes that the changing takes place behind rather than in front of the stage.
The fact that the feeling of uncanniness is transferred so well from François Jacob’s paintings to the viewer is therefore due on the one hand to the subjects, but above all—and now we come to the second reason why, on another semantic level, the attribute “uncanny” fits in so well with François Jacob’s paintings—because of the uncannily good, incredibly evocative use of color. When contemplating François Jacob’s paintings, this seem to be able to trigger a whole spectrum of mixed emotions as a result of their deft color gradations and complementary combinations. Very few painters accomplish this as well as he does. There is, for example, a whole range of green tones, from bright-lemony yellow-green to metallic-blue petrol-green. Only rich natural green is all but non-existent; appearing not even—or not at all—in Jardin (2019). The uncanny lust of the clandestinely performed group copulation scene in Secret (2017) is transposed to the erotic level of pathology by the moldy green coloration of its depiction. The spectrum of red tones used in Jacob’s painting is also nothing less than fantastic, for it ranges from the whitish-pale pink of a décolleté hidden from the sun and the glowing blood-red of a minotaur-like masked athlete to the velvety red-violet of a dress that appears almost frozen due to its strong blue component; the colors thus do not designate anything haptically flattering but rather oscillate between the overheated atmosphere of a blazing limbo and the morbid coldness of underwater landscapes. There is hardly any “normal state” of color. François Jacob uses the colors to immerse the settings in peculiar moods that do credit to the uncanny. In response to the question as to how the process of finding color takes place, how Jacob comes to the “right” color values in his paintings, which for the most part have their points of departure in photographic models from all possible sources, the artist says:
“Each painting starts with digital images and the digital treatment of these, in a black-and-white mode. The computer become useless as soon as I think in color and begin to paint. The color and the paint are the same body. For me, it is a very sensual practice that needs no other leach than feeling. [...] The composition and the light of the images (photographs) from which I procede are always reworked in order to create the right atmosphere—andthus become something new. But the first step is to transform them in a black-and-white mode in order to liberate myself from the chromatic information of the sources and to start on ‘mental’ colors. The choice of the tones is then something about a research progress. I make a lot of color samples and tests on small size supports. Trying to reveal the nature of each color and the most relevant alliances. I’ve always had the feeling that there is some kind of knowledge (lost or missed) about the color and the pigments. A knowledge I had to seek through an intimate and experimental practice. Because of their own properties, the association of colors induces a network of sensitive relationships. I simply try to listen to these things in order to establish a dialog and a balance serving the image to come.”

Even the black and white charcoal drawings do not lack a “colorful” charm. They unfold their values between the pure white of the empty, unmarked paper surfaces, from light, smoky, or shady gray to the deepest black, and also offer a wide spectrum of tonal diversity. Despite the lack of color, however, the uncanniness is transmitted in these works as well; and bizarre encounters also take place here in the pictorial space: Disproportions, surreal scenes, “picture-in-picture” motifs, and stage situations can also be found here. Those thrown into the picture—and thus into the world—have to find their own way, seem to have to pass tests and solve riddles as in a fairy tale. As in the paintings, in the charcoal drawings, mankind finds himself in a world of the unfamiliar, the abandoned, the unstable, and thus the uncanny.  
François Jacob’s paintings are repeatedly attributed an old-masterly execution; and in fact, due to the strong chiaroscuro contrasts, the chromatic tonalities, and the motifs, reference images by artists such as Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and James Ensor are called to mind. At the same time, however, François Jacob’s paintings are absolutely contemporary. They are contemporary primarily because they depict people in uncanny, obsessive, bizarre, and even threatening situations. In view of the many challenges facing humanity today, such as increasing globalization, digitalization, automation, etc., Jacob creates timeless but powerful visualizations without ever becoming concrete. His paintings reflect instead a certain spirit of the times in a figurative sense. In our “society of spectacle” (Guy Debord, La société du Spectacle, 1967), which currently seems to be becoming even more spectacular, there are hardly any “normal states,” since the excitement curves (of the social media) are jumping ever higher and faster. The increasing populism knows only the distortedly unbalanced, the de facto groundless, the inflammatorily defamatory, and is therefore extremely uncanny. Jacob’s paintings are also contemporary, however, because of their coloring, since this encourage us to think of digital color modifications, which, thanks to Photoshop or other software, can quickly be transported into any kind of color spectrum. The colors are at times so “highly charged” that one might think that there are color controls on the back of the canvases that have been used too intensively. Due to the predominantly small formats of the canvases, the coloring is not only easy to endure but also fascinates the viewer in a focused way. Especially in times of “faster, bigger, better,” the sizes are refreshingly pleasant. 
François Jacob is a painter of figures. At times, they are only hinted at schematically, and at other times are more concretely defined. At times, they are integrated into surreal scenes, at other times depicted against a nebulous background; and he does not shy away from pathetically charged sacred themes such as the Pietà. Rarely do his figures gaze out of the painting; even more seldomly do they gaze directly at the viewer. They are preoccupied with themselves and their own world, absorbed in and concentrated on their actions without empathy. One, however, brings light into the world.

(Dr. Andreas Beitin, 2019)


Künstler:
Francois Jacob