Henri Jacobs


1957 born in Zandoerle, Netherlands
1978–81 Academie St. Joost, Breda
1982–84 Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Rotterdam
1988–90 Rijksakademie, Amsterdam

lives and works in Brussels, Belgium


When I visited Henri Jacobs in his Brussels studio, he showed me a painting several metres wide with two doors. The doors are real doors that can be opened; so the painting actually had an entrance and an exit. In other works, Henri Jacobs devotes himself time and again to the illusion of depth. By cutting the canvas and inserting patterned holes or squares, he directs the viewer's gaze to the back of the work. Sometimes this technique of cutting is even the main composition altogether of a work.

At the moment, however, it is not so much painting, but rather drawing, that preoccupies the artist. This exhibition presents selected works from his many years of drawing work. For Jacobs, drawing is like diary writing: it is daily practice, pleasure and necessity, as well as a medium of exploration, reflection, and understanding. The sheer quantity of the drawings makes a quality in itself. It is interesting to follow how certain motifs develop and unfold differently through different paper works. The format is usually small, so the artist can work on any ordinary table. Henri Jacobs seems to be dealing with a very specific dynamic that he wants to capture: through repetition and variation in a series of works, change becomes visible.

Jacobs' pictorial language is formal and structural. The artist investigates how circles, squares and triangles can relate to each other and what happens when you multiply these forms. Several drawings depict circles that create the illusion of looseness. They remind the viewer of Jacobs' cut-outs from earlier years – although it remains in the drawings with pure illusion. If you look at the aspect of seriality, precision in execution and methodology, you get the impression that a mathematical, rational mind is at work here. And yet the process of creation is intuitive: the artist begins to draw and is surprised where he carries him. The compositions thus arise from the action – and not from predetermined ideas or designs.

It seems that Jacobs is trying to exhaust all the possibilities of a motif to the point of complete saturation before a new motif appears. His book Journal Drawings, which contains hundreds of paper works from 2003 to 2012, shows the full extent of his project. The book provides insights into a perspective that corresponds to an entire way of life. Daily drawing appears as an affirmation of life and sensual perception. The act of drawing means concentration, curiosity and mindfulness in relation to visual reality. And this kind of mindfulness doesn't necessarily require a topic. Because everything is contained in the form.

Jurriaan Benschop
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