I felt a childish thrill while visiting Folkert de Jong's solo show. Due to their colorful and heterogeneous materiality his figures have a sort of sensual spontaneity, but at the same time they give off the mysterious appeal of tarot illustrations. The sad Harlequin, the saucy Dutch Lady, the clueless philosopher Diogenes, the juggling King of Water, the burlesque Queen of Coal. A creepy pantheon of vicious, dirty demigods, laden with ancient symbology and dripping with polyurethane foam. The Man from Delft is actually William of Orange, here represented as a dead king, hovering at a Draculesque forty-five degrees from the ground. The aforementioned crowd is supposedly spinning off his head, a mythological and stereotypical theater of postmortem dreams that take over the gallery space.
Folkert de Jong, Diogenes, 2011, pigmented polyurethane foam, wood, 205 x 100 x 75 cm; Photo by Gert Jan van Rooij / Courtesy Galerie Fons Welters
Regardless of how deep you can delve into De Jong's references, the artist's life-sized sculptures are pretty intriguing. If anything, because they're life-sized. The fact that some of them sport extremely Dutch connotations (for example the typical clogs) makes the scene more interesting, but the contrast between each character's expressivity makes it come to life, as if you had walked in on some crazy ritual. The use of a contemporary material like polyurethane foam, with its chemical nature and pop-friendly colors, also creates an interesting dialogue with the old-fashioned symbols of Dutchness I mentioned above. De Jong's figures appear like ancient witnesses to secrets we don't know anymore, idols that have been forgotten and abandoned to the whims of playful children, who have defaced and reappropriated their image.
Folkert de Jong, The Universal Man; Photo by Nicola Bozzi / Courtesy Galerie Fons Welters
The drawings that welcome the visitor in the first room of the gallery also hint to adventurous yet unexplained tales, epic deeds and magical characters. Using felt-tip pens, which give the illustrations a childish indeterminateness, the artist composes partial narratives, monochromatic flashes that invest the white page with enigmatic fragments of an eventful past. Iconic and baroque, creepily hilarious.
(Image at top: Folkert de Jong; Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Fons Welters)