Exhibition room 4. Folkert de Jong

Folkert de Jong’s world is peopled with circus artists, soldiers, art collectors, Indian gods, mountain climbers, little dancers, heads of state, sunbathing girls and skeletons. The figurative installations devised by de Jong, which are anchored in the (often mysterious) history or meaning of a location, combine an ironic reference to the Old Masters with a large dose of the present. He brings together historic figures or situations with a contemporary visual language or objects. Fiercely beautiful figures have ambiguous relationships with each other and with their environment.

With regard to materials, Folkert de Jong usually goes for mass-produced substances rarely found in art, like polystyrene or composite foam. They are not meant to be eternal, neither are they environmentally friendly: precisely the unsettling properties that interest the artist. The worthless material is given huge appeal thanks to the precise execution of the work and the smart use of colour.

Source: Middelheim Museum www.middelheimmuseum.be/Museum_Middelheim_EN/MiddelheimEN/MiddelheimEN-Activities/MiddelheimEN-Activities-Evenementen/Evenementen-Folkert-de-Jong.html

De Jong’s sculpture re-creates and deepens the relationships of the characters in Family of Saltimbanques without copying Picasso’s painting into three dimensions, embracing a historic masterpiece in order to propel its meanings into contemporary life. Some figures share the static poses seen in the painting but others perform, blending private and public lives more directly. By constructing figures from ill-fitting sections and disjointed limbs, de Jong introduces a grotesque strangeness into the group.

The use of minutely casted and moulded Styrofoam and polyurethane add a startling experience to the sculptures. The bright colours contrast with “the immorality of the materials”, which cause environmental damage by their longevity and contributions to climate change[...].

Like Picasso’s denatured icons, de Jong’s figures have an explicit artificiality and exaggeration that intensifies their expressiveness while also affirming their falsity. Orchestrating disturbing encounters with grotesque versions of Picasso’s sad performers and channeling Picasso’s historic themes, he locates artists at the center of a very contemporary problem and explores the conflicted role of the artist as an entertainer in the petrochemical age.

Source: exhibition catalogue for “Post-Picasso: Contemporary Reactions,” Michael FitzGerald