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Danish artist Jacoba Niepoort’s approach to figuration is both deeply personal and elemental. Her bodies appear floating at a huge scale on the walls of public buildings, rendered in fluid brushstrokes of translucent watery paint, or else tangled within a sprawling web of monochromatic lines that evoke the complexity of the human psyche as well as a wider sense of interconnectivity.


Many of Jacoba’s ideas arise through intensive meditative processes in which her mind is able to relax and think more visually. She creates collages of images – sketches and photographs of people and landscapes – that inform, rather direct her compositions, allowing her to approach the surface, whether canvas, paper or the facade of a building, with a feeling of openness and curiosity. Continuous running lines, folded bodies and heavy, resting limbs convey not only a powerful sense of tactility, but also wholeness. While the large-scale public works have a presence that’s both monumental and ephemeral, the figures appearing like shadowy, ethereal visions, the canvas-based compositions, scrawled in biro or coloured pencil, possess a kind of taut intimacy that draws the viewer closer towards the surface. 


Jacoba is interested not just in the way that we inhabit ourselves and interact with other people, but also relate to the world around us. Her work often features multiple bodies, draped over one another in poses of support that sometimes evoke the appearance of natural formations – limbs like entangled branches, piled bodies like mounds of earth – or else melt into forest backdrops and expansive fields of grass. However, while there is a soft playfulness to these works, there’s also a more complex, underlying sense of vulnerability that’s at times, liberating and at others, painful. Figures pull at red threads that appear like veins extending from their stomachs; they become lost in a blur of frantic movement; or appear as puppets strung up by their arms and legs. It is these moments of tension and exposure, however, that evoke feelings of empathy and connection.


Similarly, the visible marks of imperfection – paint drips, smudges and scribbled lines – through which we can glimpse the hand of the artist and in the mural works, the surface behind, point to the rawness of free, creativity expression, particularly in comparison to the air-brushed advertising images that fill our urban environments. In this way, Jacoba seeks to counter contemporary feelings of disconnection and alienation by drawing attention to what makes us human and inviting us to embrace a more embodied sense of perception.


    - Millie Walton

DowntownHalifax - Jacoba Mural - Photo b
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